I'm getting tired of writing
about lies, so today I'm covering truths. Specifically, the truths of
innovation. I hold these truths to not be self-evident; hence we
see so little innovation.
Jump to the next curve.
Too many companies duke it out on the same curve. If they were daisy
wheel printer companies, they think innovation means adding
Helvetica in 24 points. Instead, they should invent laser printing.
True innovation happens when a company jumps to the next curve or
invents the next curve, so set your goals high.
Don't worry, be crappy.
An innovator doesn't worry about shipping an innovative product with
elements of crappiness if it's truly innovative. The first
permutation of a innovation is seldom perfect Macintosh, for
example, didn't have software (thanks to me), a hard disk (it
wouldn't matter with no software anyway), slots, and color. If a
company waits for example, the engineers convince management to
add more features until everything is perfect, it will never ship,
and the market will pass it by.
Churn, baby, churn.
I'm saying it's okay to ship crap I'm not saying that it's okay to
stay crappy. A company must improve version 1.0 and create version
1.1, 1.2, ... 2.0. This is a difficult lesson to learn because it's
so hard to ship an innovation; therefore, the last thing employees
want to deal with is complaints about their perfect baby. Innovation
is not an event. It's a process.
Don't be afraid to
polarize people. Most companies want to create the holy
grail of products that appeals to every demographic, social-economic
background, and geographic location. To attempt to do so guarantees
mediocrity. Instead, create great DICEE (Deep, Intelligent,
Emotive) products that make segments of people very happy. And
fear not if these products make other segments unhappy. The worst
case is to incite no passionate reactions at all, and that happens
when companies try to make everyone happy.
Break down the barriers.
The way life should work is that
innovative products are easy to sell. Dream on. Life isn't fair.
Indeed, the more innovative, the more barriers the status quo will
erect in your way.
Entrepreneurs should understand this upfront and not get
flustered when market acceptance comes slowly. I've found that the
best way to break barriers is enable people to test drive your
innovation: download your software, take home your hardware,
whatever it takes.
Let a hundred flowers
blossom. I stole this from Chairman Mao. Innovators need to be
flexible about how people use their products. Avon created Skin So
Soft to soften skin, but when parents used it as an insect
repellant, Avon went with the flow. Apple thought it created a
spreadsheet/database/wordprocessing computer; but, come to find out,
customers used it as a desktop publishing machine. The lesson is:
Don't be proud. Let a hundred flowers blossom.
Think digital, act
analog. Thinking digital means that companies should use all the
digital tools at its disposal computers, web sites, instruments,
whatever to create great products.
But companies should act analog
that is, they must remember that the purpose of innovation is not
cool products and cool technologies but happy people. Happy people
is a decidedly analog goal.
Never ask people to do
what you wouldn't do. This is a great test for any company.
Suppose a company invents the world's greatest mousetrap. It murders
mice better than anything in the history of mankind in fact, it's
nuclear powered. The problem is that the customer needs a PhD to set
it, it costs $500,000, and has to drop off the dead, radioactive
mouse 500 miles away in the middle of the desert. No one at the
company would jump through those hoops it shouldn't expect
customers to either.
Don't let the bozos
grind you down. The bozos will tell a company that what it's
doing can't be done, shouldn't be done, and isn't necessary. Some
bozos are clearly losers they're the ones who are easy to ignore.
The dangerous ones are rich, famous, and powerful because they are
so successful, innovators may think they are right. They're not
right; they're just successful on the previous curve so they cannot
comprehend, much less embrace, the next curve.