Archive for August, 2007|Monthly archive page
Tim Siedell is a friend who I met through Twitter. Like many of the people I follow, Tim is in the marketing business. More specifically, Tim is the Creative Director/Co-founder of Fusebox, a brand communications studio in Lincoln, Nebraska. Today, he is celebrating seven years of running his own business and wrote a great post that offers this advice…
Caveat here: the advice is not intended for everyone, but for those who feel it works for them, Tim offers seven lessons learned…
I highly recommend that you check out the post and subscribe to Tim’s blog whether you are planning to quit your job or not.
“What does innovation truly mean?”
I’m sure all of you can come up with a definition, but if you are like me, it might require a little thought. For most of us, Innovation is not an everyday concept that we can immediately describe with a consistent Webster’s definition (Frankly, I think the Webster’s definition misses the mark). For me, Innovation falls more in the “I know it when I see it” category, but after a little consideration, I was able to come up with my definition.
So did lots of people who weighed in with their definitions. Some thoughtfully, some humorously, but all adding a voice to the discussion resulting in a better understanding of the idea. Jon posted a summary of the discussion here. It’s well worth the read.
I commented on Jon’s follow-up post that people often believe they all understand a concept or idea similarly, but when you ask each to describe it, you see a beautiful diversity in their interpretations. That diversity gives depth and clarity to the idea.
We had a major storm come through last week and a lightning strike in the backyard wiped out the cable and the router (among other things), so this is the first time I’ve been on-line since then. Today, we started a two week vacation on the increasingly crowded Outer Banks of North Carolina. Hope to be able to play catch-up on the blog posts and also share some of the vacation happenings. More to come, but first, a cold beer and a walk on the beach is on order.
Just saying you are focusing on innovation and spending a big chunk of change on “being innovative” does not automatically lead to innovation success. Lots of CEOs have jumped on the innovation bandwagon in the last few years declaring, like Ford Motor Copmany, that Innovation is their new mission. Most of those companies, like Ford, have not seen their business improve as a result and some have started to curtail their investment in innovation. The problem, as I see it, is that these CEOs have latched on to the idea of innovation as some sort of magic bullet. With lots of fanfare they tell the organization to “start innovating” and then get frustrated when the billion dollar winning ideas don’t materialize fast enough. Soon, innovation in the organization goes the way of previous magic bullets like Six Sigma or TQM.
Still, there are companies like Toyota and Apple who have seen great success as a result of their innovative ideas. What makes them different? For these companies, innovation is not a program layered onto the existing organizational framework. It’s not just a marketing pitch. It’s not a subset of your top talent sequestered in a room for a couple of days a week to come up with the next big idea. It’s just part of their chemistry. It’s ingrained in their culture.
This past June, The Economist ran a story on innovation at Apple and highlighted four lessons that other companies can learn from the “master of innovation”.
- Innovation can come from without as well as within: Not all innovation has to be manufactured from scratch. Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player or the mobile phone, they just redesigned them. Oftentimes it is stitching ideas together to make a more seamless experience that is more important.
- Designing new products around the needs of the user: The Swiss Arm Knife may have been a great innovation, but don’t believe that a product will sell itself if you can force enough features into it. Focus instead on fewer features that are developed around the needs of the users and executed in an intuitive way. In other words, make you product more “experiential”.
- Sometimes ignore what the market says it wants today: While it’s important to listen to your customers, don’t limit yourself to what they are asking for. Nintendo proved this to be true last year with the introduction of the Wii with its motion-sensitive controller. The market had been saying more realistic graphics, HD output, etc. Nintendo went for a better experience through the human interface and disrupted the competition in the process. Consumers did not ask for the MP3 player, the microwave oven or any number of other innovative products that we can’t live without today but, relating back to lesson #2, we did have needs and companies that had a keen understanding of those needs and the ability to leverage new, disrupting technologies, were able to translate those needs into innovative products.NextUp › Edit — WordPress
- Fail wisely: Don’t stigmatize failure. Failure leads to learning and should be tolerated, even encouraged where risks can be minimized. The article points out that before the Macintosh, Apple had the Lisa failure and that the iPhone was born out of the music phone that Apple produced in conjunction with Motorola. While my former employer’s innovation program had it’s flaws, this was one component that was understood and embraced. “Fail Early and Fail Often” was the mantra. The idea was to be constantly looking for and testing many innovative ideas, knowing that most of them will not make it past the first business acumen checkpoint. That’s ok. It’s better to kill of the ideas that are not going to fly and learn from that failure as you move on to the next idea.
Will these basic concepts make you a successful innovator? Not necessarily, but I think they are foundational. What other innovation lessons do you believe are foundational?
(image courtesy of Getty Images)