There are always those people that stand out from the group- doing things differently, being creative and excelling in some non-traditional and exponentially unusual way. Their ingenuity and spark is not always seen in a positive light- sometimes they are seen as rulebreakers or as non-conformists and are chided for "not leaving well enough alone".
I've had the pleasure of knowing (and hanging around with) a lot of innovators in the gaming world. Some of them like to play with rules; designing and kludging until things work to their liking. Others build worlds and environments, ripe for exploration. Others fundamentally change the way a game is played by applying a new concept or practice into the regular mix. Yet others change the dynamics of a group simply through the expression of their personality or behaviors.
I've also had the misery of being the one that had to deal with "that guy". You all know the one- the one that loves to push rules to their ---very--- limit, until they scream; develop lush and verdant universes just BEGGING to be lovingly and thoroughly delved (but NO; a one-off just won't do); the guy that won't leave the game alone and has to keep changing or adding something; or the guy that's just frigging annoying and everyone around him seems to adore him but you... yeah, that guy.
Unfortunately, quite often, they are the same guy. The only real difference is perspective. maybe the group dynamic changed. Maybe the timing is different. Maybe something else has happened to change me from a positive to a negative "receptor" of their innovative ways.
It's not always easy to recognize that one of the guys you hang out with is an innovator. Sometimes you're just in quiet awe of so-and-so's insane comprehension of the WH40K rules and his tactical ability. Other times you just wish Joe Blow would leave the darn Shaharazad alone.
It takes actively being cognizant of those around you to recognize true change and forward progress. It can be tough to turn on our brains to notice the wildly brilliant, especially if they are annoying the crap out of you. Sometimes you have to think differently.
Now, sometimes, a spade is a spade. Sometimes that guy really is a jerk or he really IS brilliant. That's fine. Just take a moment to examine the situation and try to see if you can see the other person some other way.
All that being said, I was really considering who I felt innovated in my local crowd; and why I thought that way. I realized a few things I wanted to share.
1- Innovation isn't constant. It doesn't stay the same, all the time. Some times it comes in a short burst or it might be spread out over a longer period of time, but it can't be counted on.
2. Innovation is dependent on attention. Paying attention to the thing you are working on only increases your knowledge of that subject, and that knowledge actively helps achieve excellence. You know the old saw, "practice makes perfect"... well, it's true.
But now the questions....
Is there a way to encourage visionaries? How do we feed and nurture those that dream? How do we keep ourselves from kicking them square in the [OUCH]?