Tag Archives: innovation

Succeed in Business– Build Better Mousetrap: Hugh Myth– Being Better Is Not Good Enough Anymore…

Ah: Build a better mouse-trap; not a ‘different mouse-trap’, but a ‘better mouse trap’… But; What does ‘better’ mean? According to Seth Godin; this is a hard lesson for marketing and business development people to learn– they don’t get to decide what’s better, the customer does! If you look at the decisions made about– features, benefits, pricing… how many of them are obviously ‘better’ and how many people might disagree? Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door is one of the most quoted innovation credo: Yet it’s a myth…

Innovation experts call this the ‘better mousetrap fallacy’, because the credo focuses solely on technology and not on consumers… Consumers really don’t really care about a better mousetrap; they care about fewer mice… According to Ted Levitt; consumers don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole. But many organizations still seem to take this credo literally…

Even though it’s can damage the business– it gives the impression that building ‘better’ things is all that it takes to build a successful business… According to John Seiffer; it’s just not true, yet the comfort of believing it forces countless organizations to endure pain of failure despite having something better. So yes build ‘better’ mousetrap if so inclined, but if you are looking to build successful organization: Innovate or Die…

In the article Build Better Mousetrap by Corbett Barr writes: It’s a trap many organizations fall into: They believe that if they just come up with the elusive ‘better’ mousetrap, i.e.; product, service, widget, app… then they can build a successful organization… But just being ‘better’ will not get customers beating a path to your door… There are few big problems with idea of ‘better’: First, ‘better’ is worthless on its own– its only a multiplier of execution– it needs entire value support system…

Second, ‘better’ is rarely new: Often what you think is ‘better’ isn’t really ‘better’ at all… Your ‘better’ may have actually led others with the same definition of ‘better’ down a path to failure… Hence the issue is not ‘better’, but ‘different’ like innovative– and it does not necessarily have to be completely your own original idea. It’s what you ‘add’ and ‘do’ that makes you ‘better’; different, unique, relevant, valued…

In the article Myth: Just Build Better Mousetrap by Steve Denning writes: Most people know the saying; build ‘better’ mousetrap. Its become quite a popular maxim. It’s a catchy line but it’s really bad advice and can be a disaster for organizations that follows its logic:

  • Building ‘better’ mousetrap embodies an ‘inside-out’ mindset: It means that your thinking is oriented from ‘inside-out’, rather than from ‘outside-in’ the organization… The ‘inside-out’ perspective characterizes the 20th Century thinking, whereas the ‘outside-in’ represents the shift in power from seller-to-buyer and characterizes the new business reality… According to Professor Ranjay Gulati; firms with an ‘inside-out’ mindset are much less resilient than those that adopt an ‘outside-in’ mindset… The logic is simple; know and understand the customer, rather than just guessing…
  • Building ‘better’ mousetrap is a continuous improvement mindset: It means the task of management is simply to focus on efficiency and continuous improvement. In effect, the mousetrap must keep getting better for customers to be delighted… But there are limits to ‘better’, and at some point ‘better’ becomes obsolete… Hence, organizations must move beyond continuous improvement and beyond just making things better… They must do things different by disrupting the value of ‘better’ through innovation…

In the article Build Better Mousetrap by Claude Whitacre writes: Build a better’ mousetrap is metaphor for; an organization knows what customers want better than customers themselves… an organization knows how to delight customers better than customers themselves…  The ‘better’ mousetrap approach makes the assumptions that key factors are aligned– customer expectation, competitive advantage, valued-added, price/performance…

However, in a highly disruptive and innovative market environment, basic assumptions may not be correct, e.g.; Do consumers really want ‘better’ mousetrap? Is the mousetrap market growing or shrinking? Do consumers still want to trap mice? A credo built into ‘better mousetrap’ scenario is– technology in search of market. The notion of technology alone is ‘better’ can be expensive risk that an organization can avoid by answering few simple questions: Who is the customer? What is the problem to be solved? How big is the market? What is the added value? What support and service do customer expect?

The notion that an organization can offer same, or nearly the same, thing as competition but only a little bit ‘better’ is a tough strategy and it will definitely face a struggle to survive. According to Robert E. Johnston; when challenged to build ‘better’ mousetrap the typically approach is to find ways to make it– stronger, lighter, quieter, faster, cheaper, nicer design, less visible… among other obvious low-hanging improvements. This approach, done well, will produce incremental innovation, but seldom anything more...

However, it’s interesting to observe that when organizations are challenged to imagine beyond non-incremental (beyond ‘better’) to breakthrough innovation, it seems that many organizations often just start with the safety that comes from something that they know and already works. Hence the logic is very straight forward, e.g.; since this new innovative idea’s is already proven to be feasible, all the organization need to do is innovate new value into something that is already known, proven…

The logic is simple, less risk, good to go: Right? Yes perhaps, if what you are looking for is just incremental or modest innovation… But if objective is inflict major disruption in market(s), then a more disruptive non-incremental innovative (or breakthrough) approach is required– but initially its feasibility may be in question… It’s easier to build feasibility into innovation, than to build innovation into feasibilityHence, the biggest challenge in a highly competitive disruptive market environment is to breakthrough existing mindset of how something is currently conceived, and embrace ideas that are more innovative than feasible…

Debatable: Technology Innovation Stagnation, Slowdown– Fiction or Fact– But Does it Really Matter?

The current pace of technological change make one’s heads spin, and it’s easy to think of the digital age as the most innovative ever, e.g.; smartphones, supercomputers, big data, nanotechnologies, gene therapy, stem-cell transplants… But despite these seemingly advancing technologies and hyper-connected economies… the data show that the world is really in long-term period of slower growth, and pundits suggest the reason is because of slower breakthrough technology innovation…

Hence, two questions: 1.) Is there a slowing of technology innovation? 2.) Is there direct link between the rate of technology innovation and economic growth?  

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According to Irving Wladawsky-Berger; data suggests that growth in world economies that operates at technology leading edge are slowing down… Of course, there may be, and probably are, many different explanations for slowing economic growth, but given the emphasize that most economists place on importance of technology innovation as the ultimate source of long-term growth; the obvious question; Is slowing economic growth due to slower technology innovation?

According to Tyler Cowen in his book, The Great Stagnation; most world economies have already ‘picked low-hanging fruit’ of technology, so it’s inevitable that technological progress and growth is slowing…

According to Marc Andreessen; innovation is far from dead and to say that we are entering period of innovation stagnation is hard to equate with smartphones in hands of nearly 2 billion people, worldwide…

According to Peter Thiel; current innovation has not created enough good jobs, or produced revolutionary improvement in overall productivity, or improved the living standards of most people… Yes, the Internet is ‘a net plus, but not a big one’… We wanted medical breakthroughs, but instead we got 140 characters… we are no longer solving big problems.

In the article What is Innovation Stagnation by Stian Westlake writes: Since the financial crisis there’s been wave of worry that technology innovation has slowed down. High-profile proponents of the ‘Great Stagnation’ theory, include; Silicon Valley svengali Peter Thiel, and economist Tyler Cowen, and economic historian Robert Gordon.

The subject has also piqued curiosity of economic heavyweights who are concerned about a wider economic slowdown, e.g.; Paul Krugman, Larry Summers, Martin Wolf… But strange thing about this discussion is that none of it seems to have cast much light on whether or not the phenomenon is actually happening. In the absence of real data, it’s almost impossible to prove whether innovation is slowing down, or not…

Even contributions from luminaries like; Joel Mokyr (who argued against a slowdown) have felt surprisingly general and not terribly compelling. Indeed, one of the most fact-based contributions came from Bill Janeway, who drew on historical examples to argue that it’s too early to say… Yet although no one has much evidence as to whether or not a technology slowdown is happening, people seem surprisingly sure of opinions and keen to discuss the subject. There are no knock-down arguments, but plenty of conviction…

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In the article The Golden Quarter of Innovation by Michael Hanlon writes: We  live in a golden age of technology innovation– medical, scientific, consumer, social progress… Just look at the smartphone! Twenty years ago the Internet was a creaky machine for geeks. Now we can’t imagine life without it. We are on verge of many medical break-throughs that would have seemed like magic only half a century ago, e.g.; cloned organs, stem-cell therapies to repair DNA… Even now, life expectancy in some countries is improving by five hours a day: A day! Surely immortality, or something very like it, is just around the corner…

The notion that the 21st-century world is one of accelerating advances is so dominant that it seems churlish to challenge it. Almost every week we read about ‘new hopes’ for cancer sufferers, developments in the lab that might lead to new cures, talk of the new era of space tourism and super-jets that can fly round the world in a few hours. Yet a moment’s thought tells us that this vision of unparalleled innovation can’t be right, that many of these breathless reports of innovation are, in fact, mere hype, or speculation, or  even fantasy…

Yet there once was an age when speculation matched reality, but it spluttered to halt over 40 years ago… Most of what has happened since has been merely incremental improvements upon what came before… That true age of innovation call it– ‘the Golden Quarter’ ran from about 1945 to 1971. Just about everything that defines the current modern world, either came about or had its seeds during this time…

Consider; the pill; electronics; computers; birth of the Internet; nuclear power; television; antibiotics; space travel; civil rights… There is more; feminism; green revolution; decolonization; mass aviation… Also, birth of gay rights movement; cheap reliable autos; high-speed trains; man on the moon; probe to mars, beat smallpox; discovered the double-spiral key of life….

The Golden Quarter was unique period of less than a single generation, a time when innovation appeared to be running on a mix of dragster fuel and dilithium crystals… Whereas, today’s innovation is defined almost entirely by consumer-driven, often banal improvements in information technology…

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In the article Technology Slowdown by David Rotman writes: No wonder so many people are upset. They sense that they will never be as financially secure as their parents or grandparents… Anger over the stalled economy is certainly manifesting itself in the current presidential election… However, speculating on how the lack of economic progress has affected the mood of the country is risky… Although intense political anger had also broken out during periods of strong growth, such as; the 1960s… So today’s economic morass cannot be blamed entirely on lack of innovation… But does any of this really matter? So what if white heat of technology innovation is cooling off a bit?

The world is, in general, far safer, healthier, wealthier and nicer than it has ever been… We are living longer; civil rights are so entrenched that gay marriage is being legalized in many places; old-style racist thinking is met with widespread revulsion… The world is better in 2016 than it was in 1971… And yes, we have seen some impressive technology advances… But it could have been so much better, if pace of change had continued– it maybe a world where Alzheimer’s was treatable, where clean nuclear power ended threat of climate change, where the brilliance of genetics would bring benefits of cheap and healthy food to the bottom billion, and where cancer would really be on the back foot…

Could it be that the attitude towards risk (risk-aversion) has changed? People, often the young, then were prepared to take huge, physical risks to right the wrongs of the pre-war world. The early civil rights and anti-war protesters faced tear gas or worse. In the 1960s, feminists faced social ridicule, media approbation and violent hostility… But  now, mirroring the incremental changes seen in technology, social progress all too often finds itself down the blind alley of political correctness. Students used to be hotbeds of dissent, even revolution; today’s hyper-conformist youth is more interested in the policing of language and stifling debate when it counters prevailing wisdom…

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Today’s social media seems, despite democratic appearances, to be enforcing a climate of timidity, encouraging group think… According to Daron Acemoglu; it’s time for a health debate… techno-optimists have had too much of a run without being challenged… and it’s hard to think that we are in an age of paucity of innovation…

According to Michael Lind; government must play a greater role in initiating and supporting innovation at all levels… and it must promote collaboration among– itself, business, universities… to come-up with innovations that boost productivity and quality of life… Innovation isn’t over; but it won’t continue at all on its own, either…

Pursuit of Innovation– Its Messy! Its Wasteful! Its Inefficient! Its the Antagonist of Business Minimalism…

The ‘relentless pursuit of innovation’ is life-blood of all great organizations… The ability to identify new opportunities and develop solutions that businesses and consumers will embrace is the cornerstone of innovation… While it’s a simple concept, its execution is much more complex and great companies are in a constant race to be the innovator in their industry…

According to Jon Mertz; innovation are those ‘wake-up’ moments when an organization realizes that they are on the wrong track and they need to change… Or, other times when they are inspired with ‘big idea’, which can take organization to whole new level competitiveness… But innovation is not pretty– it’s messy, it’s inefficient, it’s wasteful…

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Then there are other organizations that are less inspired and constantly searching for– waste, inefficiency… they strive to become– lean and mean– which is an inward looking strategy that embraces ‘the relentless pursuit of efficiency’… but main purpose of an organization is to create ‘value’, not to focus on efficiency… Innovation creates ‘value’, whereas the pursuit of efficiency can improve the ‘bottom line’, but rarely creates value… However innovation is difficult; it means messing around; trying things, messing things up, again and again… it’s ‘waste’ but ‘good waste’…

In the article Productivity Paradox by Wickham Skinner writes: Efficiency is an instinctive response to improve business performance metrics– it creates very little value. According to William Abernathy; an organization can easily become prisoner in search for greater efficiency… for some organization its obsession… they try to wring out ever drop of waste, inefficiency… which can be counter productive…

When managers grow up in this atmosphere, their skills, vision… never fully develop– they instinctively strive to minimize all inefficiencies, waste… while missing broad opportunities to stimulate growth through innovation… The harsh fact is generations of managers are stunted by this efficiency-driven mentality… For many organization efficiency is single dimension of performance and deeply ingrained in culture… And, it can create a toxic work environment that drives-out creative, innovative people at all levels…

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In the article Economy Is Obsessed with Efficiency by Umair Haque writes: The noble pursuit of efficiency is becoming something more like a frenzied, perhaps even a self-destructive obsession… The relentless pursuit of efficiency stagnates the economy, it’s not stimulation… The challenge for robust economy is not more efficiency, but more relevant innovation… Yet many organization only focus on the relentless pursuit of efficiency… The message here is not to demonize the quest for more efficiency, but to think a little more wisely about it… Hence, the challenge for– leaders, investors, inventors, dreamers… is not merely to make things more efficient, but to create life-changing innovation…

In the article Efficiency and Inefficiency by Charles Beckett writes: Efficiency is a paring down to essentials, a stripping away of extraneous or unnecessary things… in many organizations efficiency  is about– lean, stripped-down, minimal… things that are  absolutely necessary to exist– it’s the minimalist view that simple is better… It’s the removal of all– distractions, untidiness… and according to minimalist it creates a powerful symbolism of power, symmetry, perfection…

In corporate terms, and indeed in economic terms, we tend to think of efficiency as something that requires a burning away (of chaff, or waste…) until we are left with that which is absolutely necessary to get the job done… However, according to many experts; genuine creativity, originality must, by definition, have a degree of inefficiency… Part of the beauty of innovation is the vagary of the journey…

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In the article Businesses Can Kill Innovation by Nick Heath writes: Organizations can easily fall into traps that stifle innovation and lead to stagnation… They often embrace behaviors that stifle innovation they claim to promote. These behaviors are frequently unconscious– a side effect of practices that are entrenched in some organizations and inadvertently smother innovation without even realizing it, e.g.:

  • Refuse to Upset Core Business: Companies that refuse to consider any activity that might disrupt established business risk, ignoring technological and societal changes that will eventually eat away at their core… According to Mark Raskino; companies can become fixated on the idea that they produce a certain type of good or service and are unable to accept that in a changing environment they need to shift their business towards doing something else…
  • Blind to the Bigger Picture: Focusing too heavily on short-term outcomes can exhaust a company’s opportunity to innovate… Constantly fighting fires to ensure revenues and profits are in line with forecasts and to maintain the confidence of shareholders is a common impulse for managers… According to Mark Raskino; the dominant job of management is to keep the enterprise going, with almost the same outcome year-over-year, which is a miracle in itself because the world outside is changing…
  • Listen to Customers: According to Steve Jobs; people don’t know what they want until you show it to them… According to Clayton Christensen; most customers are not able to visualize how product or service could better serve them… Instead of straight-out asking customers what they want, examine their habits carefully to learn what they want to do in their lives, and create product or service that meets that need…
  • Dismiss Failures: Companies that pooh-pooh ideas as old hat could be shutting the door to valuable opportunities… According to Mark Raskino; just because an idea crashed and burned earlier, it doesn’t mean that it won’t succeed later… Ideas move in fits and starts. They go away and come back again, but they are never exactly the same– due to technologies and cultural change…
  • Confuse Technology with Innovation: It’s a mistake to think that the path to innovation lies through latest technology… According to Mark Raskino; innovation is doing new things in new ways for customers, some of which may or may not involve new technology… This idea that simply doing ‘show-and-tell’ with new technology is somehow innovation in itself is very naïve…

Nothing stifles innovation like a good, old-fashioned– ‘stuck in the rut’… According to Kou Murayama, Andrew Elliot; when managers, workers… concentrate on specific business performance goals, they only see the ‘little’ picture in front of their eyes and use only the existing and proven techniques to get the job done… hence creativity may often fall by the wayside… In contrast, when managers, workers… strive to become masters at their jobs, they tend to grasp the ‘big’ picture and are more likely imagine new ideas to improve  overall results…

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According to Gregory Berns; the human brain is a ‘lazy piece of meat’ and it’s gotten lazy because it has evolved for efficiency, it likes to take perceptual shortcuts to save energy. Thinking ‘inside the rut’ takes a lot less energy than getting ‘outside the rut’– it’s more efficiency but it limits growth… Hence, great leaders must lift their managers, workers… out of habitual ‘in the rut’ thinking they must encourage them to expand the possibilities for more innovative solutions…

When an organization is obsessive with efficiency it’s preoccupied with the ‘rut’… being ‘stuck in the rut’ blinds the senses for innovating thinking that can lift an organization to much higher levels of sustainability…

Power of Moonshot Thinking– Beyond Crazy, Stupid, Even Fringe of Sci-Fi: But Without It, There is No Giant Leap…

It starts with a dream, a crazy thought– moonshot thinking is a concept that revolves around radical change… According to Shamash Alidina; moonshot thinking is opposite of the way most organization think… most organizations think about how they can make themselves– 10% better, not 10x better… But 10% better is what most competitors do…

But there is different way– it’s another level of thinking; it’s stupid, crazy, science fiction (Sci-Fi)… More than 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy captured world’s imagination when he said; U.S. will land man on the moon and return safely to earth… and thus the term ‘moonshot’ entered the lexicon as shorthand for– ‘difficult and unimaginable task, the outcome of which is expected to have great significance’

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According to Scott D. Anthony and Mark Johnson; all good moonshots have three key ingredients: 

1.) It inspires: Kennedy’s quote raises the spirit; a more typical corporate goal of increasing return on invested capital from 13.4% to 13.9%, not so much. That kind of financial target might be important, but it’s unlikely to get people to do extraordinary things… 2.) It’s credible: It’s easy to assume that a moonshot is just a ridiculous stretch target, but before Kennedy made his speech he had made a detailed assessment of the underlying technological trends to ensure that the goal had a reasonable chance of success… 3.) It’s imaginative: It isn’t an obvious extrapolation of what’s happening today (which for Kennedy would simply have been to fly farther into space), but something that offers a meaningful break from the past…

In the article Moonshots by Astor Teller writes: Moonshot’s live in a place that is between audacious, and pure science fiction… Yet the lessons people are taught from early age is to– play it safe, don’t do stupid things, walk before you run, slow and steady wins the race, under-promise and over-deliver… In repeating these mantras the message is very clear– don’t think big… Moonshot thinking starts with picking a big problem; something huge, unthinkable, impossible…

Next it involves articulating a radical solution– one that would actually solve the problem, if it exists– something that might that sounds like it’s out of a Sci-Fi story… Also, there needs to be some kind of concrete evidence that the proposed solution is not quite as crazy or impossible as it might seem…

Something that justifies at least a close look at whether such a solution could be brought into being if enough– creativity, passion, persistence… were brought to bear on it. This evidence could be some breakthrough in technology that could actually make the solution possible within say, a decade or so… Without all of these things, you may have a Sci-Fi or crazy idea, but you don’t have a moonshot… And for sure not one where you can aim for new heights, and address a big challenge in a ‘maybe-not-totally-crazy’ kind of way… Often, if you just step back and apply enough audacity, creativity, persistence– you can get new perspective that makes doing the impossible, possible…

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In the article Future-Proof Your Business With Moonshot Thinking by Anthony Scherba writes: Any organization can use moonshot thinking to anticipate change– not to mention brainstorming more effective ways of developing a new competitive strategy by asking questions, such as: Is your competitive advantage truly sustainable? Will current strategies be competitive in your industry for 5, 10, 20 years? According to Clayton Christensen; there are serious pitfalls focusing solely on fulfilling the needs of current customers… The dilemma comes into play when a successful business gets comfortable, and neglects to explore new ideas because customers are happy with the current state of the solution…

But moonshot thinking is easier said than done: It’s very tempting to pour big money in futuristic hypothetical ‘what ifs’, as opposed to investing money in more immediate, less exciting improvement projects… But you don’t need to make big investments to start looking ahead; holding occasional brainstorming sessions focused on the future of your industry can help solidify your organizations place in that environment… and you can get a better sense of what challenges you are facing in future… and to better understand how you must evolve to drive the organization forward. Get ahead of the curve by asking ‘what if’, before your competitors do…

In the article Applying Moonshot Thinking by Zog writes: Great leaders should be the optimal blend of– creative and analytical…They should represent a constant balance between the– right and left brain. They should take great pride in trying something new knowing that there is risk but also great reward… Thinking in moonshots doesn’t mean abandoning the analytical side; it just dares you to think beyond immediate metrics and traditional practices– it allows freedom of thought…

Making moonshot thinking part of strategy means– accessing risk and optimal flexibility… The correct blend of moonshot in a strategy can help propel your ‘brand’ and organization forward… Taking risks can yield incredible rewards; when an organizations allows its team members to think boldly they can reap great rewards… and even with failures the journey will make your organization stronger, more resilient… The best (most profitable) ideas often come when you allow  your people to forgo the status quo and think big…

Moonshot thinking is a very risky proposition, it’s totally different approach to innovation, but one of the most important lessons is that– some things are perceived to be impossible until you actually try them… The moonshot thinking is not encouraged or embraced by most organization, because of the risk it involves and low probability of successful outcome… but despite its hazardous aspect it does give whole new twist for thinking…

Society needs 10x gains to solve many of its biggest problems; most of the difficult issues are exponentiating, e.g.; world population is rising on exponential curve… use of resources per person is rising on an exponential curve… Humankind needs to keep pace with these and many other challenges to manage and sustain life on this planet… and incremental thinking isn’t going to get you there…

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In the article Stop Looking For Moonshot Ideas, Focus on Simple Solutions by Bobby Emamian writes: Not every idea has to be an earth-shaking innovation… the key is that every strategic step (whether big or small), should be an important improvement for a more competitive organization… and although tempting, big or crazy ideas (moonshot) are usually big waste of time and resources, and a distraction from the core business… Power of an idea isn’t in its– creativity, brilliance, originality… because ideas have no value until they are actually put into action… true value of ideas lie in their potential to solve real problems. The so-called ‘moonshot’ ideas that don’t solve real problems only distract the mission and derails progress…

Business needs ideas that will actually advance the organization– new initiative that address a real problem, or perceived problem, or issues that customers face, or that improve the existing organization… An idea need not be game changer ( moonshot) to make a big impact on the organization… The best way to avoid chasing useless ideas or ignoring important ones is to ensure all solutions align with organization’s core purpose… Next time someone comes-up with an idea that’s going to be game changer (moonshot); first, determine if it solves real problems or provides convenience that really matters.

Most organizations would be perfectly happy improving their organization by 10%… but according to Larry Page at Google; if you’re not doing some things that are crazy, then you are doing wrong things. He challenges his company (Google) to think in moonshots — ideas so large that they require the kind of creativity and innovation that are necessary to literally and figuratively put a man on the moon… This thinking tasks an organization to do things by 10x– 10x bigger, 10x cheaper, 10x faster… Either disrupt your organization, or someone else will… When you shoot for 10x improvement you approach the problem in a radically different fashion…

moon2 thDo you have a moonshot idea? Many people who discuss crazy ideas, get laughed at, e.g.; when the mission of landing man on moon started, most people just laughed and thought it was crazy, bizarre! No one believed that it would ever happen. Who thought about; Internet, social media, driverless car, mobile phones, new medicines… would really happen? These all started with an idea that was thought to be stupid, crazy… Nobody actually knew how to build an airplane till it was done… We always appreciate– courage, and audacity of a moonshot, once it’s accomplished.

Luckily there are a few people who are– stupid enough, bold enough… that they follow a dream: Yes most moonshot’s fail, but the few that do succeed change the world…

Innovation Is Dead– Ingenuity is Mother of Invention: Doing More with Less– Ingenuity Drives Creativity…

Innovation is dead; killed off by– overuse, misuse, narrowness, incrementalism, failure to evolve… According to phil mckinney; focus on ‘ingenuity’ it’s the key component that enables innovation… Ingenuity is the power of creative imagination; the quality of being cleverly inventive or resourceful; inventiveness. Ingenuity is the key ingredient and the spark that creates innovation…

According to Norman Heatley; pursuit of innovation demands ingenuity– the ability to come up with solutions that are original and clever, within the given constraints. As technology and markets converge, the gap between what’s possible and what’s practical gets smaller… Human ingenuity enables a company to jump that gap before its competitors do…

Ingenuity drives innovation– today’s challenge is  creating more value using fewer resources; it requires real ingenuity and it’s happening all over the world… the ‘more for more’ business model is running out of steam…

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Accoding to Navi Radjou; businesses must tap into the most abundant cheap resource: human ingenuity… In India they call it ‘jugaad’, a Hindi word meaning an innovative fix or improvised solution using ingenuity and resourcefulness. Jugaad solutions are not sophisticated or perfect, but they create value at lower cost… They cleverly transform adversity into opportunity and turn something of less value into something of high value. In other words, they master the art of doing ‘more with less’…

A similar approach is called ‘gambiarra’ in Brazil, ‘zizhu chuangxin’ in China… it’s MacGyver-ism, TV show in 1980s, where the character ‘MacGyver’ had uncanny ability, with just most basic resources to produce ingenious answers to almost any challenge… his name is synonymous with creative ingenuity…

In the article Ingenuity: Pathway to Innovation by Matthew May writes: Ingenuity is equal parts creativity (something original), application (something built), and value (something useful)…. Why ingenuity? Because creativity as a concept scares the average big company denizen, for two reasons:

First, because conventional wisdom treats it as special quality, a mystical talent, selectively reserved for ‘le artistewho waits for a kiss of the muse to inspire a masterpiece. Which, of course, is nonsense but certainly convenient; by thinking of creativity as natural gift you can relieve accountability for ingenuity, and excuse failure to innovate all in a single stroke…

Second, because creativity seems somehow ‘soft’ and unrelated to the hard-edged tactics thought to be needed to succeed on the business battlefield… Every year, work gets more complex. Business gets more competitive. Jobs get more specialized. Careers get less stable. Goals get more challenging. Budgets shrink. Deadlines tighten. And all the while, the pace of change just keeps accelerating…

How are you going to deal with all that? You’ve got more to do and less to do it with. You have no choice other than to get more creative, more resourceful… You have to build, ship something, and that something needs to deliver value to someone somewhere, or you’ll quickly find yourself irrelevant… Ingenuity is closer to that kind of applied creativity…

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In the article The Leader’s New Chisel by Craig Perrin writes: Innovate or die– is no longer a cliché… It describes the real choice many organizations face in the current economy– rethink  everything from strategy to products to daily operation or risk oblivion.  Ingenuity, has taken on new meaning and new urgency. Today, offering and executing good ideas is not enough. Leaders must create a culture in which innovation can thrive.

To respond to new threats and opportunities, leaders must question everything… Innovation at one time was a little-used skill at the bottom of a leader’s tool box, and fished-out for incremental improvements here or there. Today, leaders need sharp new tools and requisite skills to create true culture of ingenuity: curious, challenging, collaborative, confidence, team building, customer relevant… Leaders strong in the zone of ‘ingenuity’ must help their teams to create a motivating shared-vision of future success…

In the article Ingenuity: Super Skill by Dorothy H. Bray writes: Ingenuity is the skill of working out how to achieve things or invent new things or ideas… Ingenuity is unique as a pluralistic skill; it’s a blended skill, built on fusion of– aptitude, capability, proficiency, ability… It’s super-skill; deriving its energy from shared-communication, creativity, cognitive problem solving… its inventive skills; imaginative and clever new ideas, and interdisciplinary… 

Synonyms for ingenuity include;  inventiveness, resourcefulness, shrewdness it’s a cooperative process resulting in the production of ideas that solves real problems… Recent research suggests that creativity is not simply a product of personality or individual psychology, but rather rooted in teachable competences that includes; idea generation, improvisation, metaphorical and analogical reasoning, divergent thinking that explores many possible solutions, counter-factual reasoning, synthesis of competing solutions…

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In the article Ingenuity by Jordan Ritter writes: When you talk about something that’s ingenious, there’s a confluence of three factors; challenge, idea, pursuit of solution… Today in technology, most people are substituting the word ‘innovation’ for ‘ingenuity’, and that this is getting in the way of real experimentalism and true breakthroughs… Part of the problem is that the word ‘innovation’ has been co-opted in a marketing context; people are exposed to an explosion of information, there’s a cascade of ‘cutting-edge’ or ‘leading-edge’ solutions that are characterized as ‘innovations’… when in fact they are an exercise of ingenuity…

Call it tinkering. Or testing. Or tweaking… Whatever you call it, it’s the enemy of the status quo, of complacency, of the ordinary… Want to work like an artist? Then new and different is the creed, because for an artist– ‘as is’; just isn’t acceptable… So it’s not enough to be technically proficient at something; sure, to be a true master at anything, one must first gain command of ‘old school’ methods, but competence and workmanship is just the ante to the game…

According to Matthew May; ingenuity is about new, better, different… and it’s a marvel when some people not only perform the basics to near perfection, but then actually change the game and achieve hero status… it’s the application of imagination and ingenuity. It’s constant exploration and leveraging different ideas, methods… it’s a creative mind-shift…

According to Kelvin Odoobo; to achieve ingenious results you must be unattached to ‘having’ the right answer and instead, being attached to ‘finding’ the right answer… it’s experimentalism… and bias towards action, ability to move and change, willingness to be versatile in action and agile in thought… The people who have the greatest potential for ingenuity are those who have the greatest capacity for– fearlessness, critical thinking, adventurously learning new things…

According to Manish Jha; often would-be innovators  stand on the shoulders of many successful giants of innovations who came before  them–to learn, to be inspired, to mimic… which is all good, but sometimes in this process the would-be innovators lose their originality and ingenuity and end-up accomplishing less…

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Is there a better way, different way? Exploration always starts with a ‘question’… And the ‘right question’ is far more important than the ‘right answer’. According to Milan Kundera;  people’s stupidity comes when they have an ‘answer’ for everything, whereas people’s wisdom comes when they have a ‘question’ for everything…

The problem is that most people forget how to ask ‘questions’… In vast majority of– universities, institutions, organizations… they breed too much conformity of thought and not enough curiosity… They often are adamant about what is know and believe to be true; they limit themselves only to options that are– right in front of them, and fail to consider what’s truly possible…

Remember this fact; everything that is ‘known’, in today’s world, was at one time– unknown, unimagined, undiscovered… so it’s important that each person, as major part of their daily work, make a serious effort to– discovery, uncover, create… something that is currently unknown in the organization, something that improves state of– technology, or customers, or workers…

Ask ‘questions’ and offer ‘creative’ solutions; ingenuity is all about asking the ‘right’ questions. Hence you too, by asking the ‘right’ questions, at the right ‘time’, at the ‘right’ place… and offering ‘creative’ solutions can become another MacGyver…

 

Riding the Waves of Innovation– Surfing the Engine of Economic Growth– Catch the Wave, or Risk Wipe-Out…

Innovation is the engine of economic growth; over the past 100 year it’s clear that innovation– more than inputs of capital and labor– is what drives a modern economy… Innovation and application of technological know-how and scientific discoveries accounts for over half of all economic growth… According to Irving Wladawsky-Berger; every decade or so (it used to be about every 50 years) the world goes through a major innovation technology-based economic revolution– also known as Kondratiev Waves…

Historically, the cycle of innovations is as follows; a cycle starts when a new innovation begins to emerge, which stimulates investment, which invigorate markets, which gets embraced by entrepreneurs who start new businesses based on these new technologies, and begins to gain market share at the expense of the then existing technology… eventually, the new innovation dominates markets, set standards, kill-off weaker rivals… but then over time, it too becomes venerable from other emerging new innovations…

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Eventually, the cycle of innovation is repeated; it begins again as a new wave, which destroys the old way of doing things and creates conditions for a new cycle… According to Joseph Schumpeter; it’s a process of– ‘creative destruction’… These new innovations continue to attract more and more financial capital from investors, which in turn helps to improve the quality and lowers the cost of the new technology, and leads to many new innovative applications… And over time, these new paradigms significantly transform global economies, as well as, re-shaping social behavior and institutions of society… Hence, the previous decades of ‘creative destruction’ now become a golden age of ‘creative construction’…

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In the article The Surfers of Innovation by Maurício Manhães writes: The sport of surfing is a perfect metaphor for understanding the phenomenon of innovation… Of course, I am not the first person to equate waves with innovation in business. This discourse was created by several early researchers and further developed by Joseph Schumpeter, who in his theory connected– innovations, cycles, development… and his continuing hero was the entrepreneur… But for me, it’s a surfer…

For Schumpeter, capitalism ‘looks like’ an evolutionary process producing– continually alternating waves of innovation and destruction… which are waves, followed by waves, all come crashing onto a beach… Hence, surfing offers countless metaphors that can help to understand the evolutionary nature of ‘innovation’, for example:

  • The Wave: Nobody creates a wave. It just ‘happens’ out of countless uncontrollable interactions of the sea with winds, the movement of the moon, and anything else that affects bodies of water. Surfers don’t create waves… A wave is just a wave and no more. It may be small, medium large or a ‘tube’. It may be good for surfing or not… The wave, as a generative metaphor, symbolizes the will of a social context to direct its resources/energy towards a sector or product (goods or services). The ‘sea’, in this metaphor represents human beings, a society; and, incredible as it may seem, society is as uncontrollable as the wave…
  • The Surfer: So, the wave is uncontrollable. But, it can be surfed. And it may be poorly or very well surfed… In the case of innovation, the surfer is like an entrepreneur. The wave is the ‘energy’, channeled by a sea of people in a certain ‘direction’. The surfer’s maneuvers are the products created. And in that resides an interesting concept: the maneuvers do not themselves create waves; likewise, products do not create demands…
  • The Beach: Well, the beach is the niche of expertise, each with its own characteristic set of waves. One that may be crowded or just have you alone on it. Indeed, the pleasure of riding the perfect wave on a deserted beach might be phenomenal… but finding a ‘new’ beach with perfect waves is a very risky adventure. Most of the times it’s better to head for a well-known surfer’s beach and try to create new maneuvers…
  • Innovation: Joining these elements (i.e., wave, surfer, beach) you can understand the dynamics of innovation a little better. We can also clearly see the  difficulty of predicting who will be the next innovative ‘billionaire’. For this to occur requires the coincidence of these three factors: ideal beach, prefect wave, gifted surfer…

In the article Riding the Crest of the Wave by Leonard Sweet writes: Riding the crest of a wave can be the ‘moment’ when you are most likely to be swept into– depression, panic… or, euphoric exhilaration… Reaching a position of success and acceptance, through innovations; entails hard, slogging work… long hours of study, unfulfilling chores, unimportant ‘entry’ level jobs, carefully cultivated ‘right’ relationships…

The moment of your greatest success and achievement is when you are riding the crest of a great wave of business ingenuity, is also the moment you are most likely to be subjected to the severest temptations; gnawed by your most debilitating insecurities, and seduced into believing the most grandiose visions of your own abilities… For most then, wave-riding puts you into dangerous and tenuous positions, but reaching the crest of the wave and riding with the wind is an ecstatic experience…

Remember the poster of the Peanuts’ beagle ‘Snoopy’, surfing at the tip of a perfectly curled wave, shouting his victory cry; Cowabunga! It’s these moments of pure joy, of unabashed rejoicing, but they are only ‘moments’… It’s how you follow-up those sporadic successes that determines your ability to grow, so that you may be prepared to struggle your way up the next on-coming wave…

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In the article Releasing Innovation: Riding the Wave by Scott Propp writes: Something amazing happens when a wave of innovation moves through your company; lifting-up and carrying the ripest ideas all the way to market without losing their freshness and vitality… However, most companies are actually doing the opposite– they are focused on pushing innovation that fits within a pre-existing model, out the door…

The problem here is that once a product has been successful within a first core market, other growing market needs, tend to go unnoticed. It’s important to remember that once one set of needs is locked onto and served, it’s time to look for the next wave– and for sure another one is always being formed: Finding this next wave takes– listening, learning, doing… Instead of just pushing and driving innovation from within an organization, you want to become perfectly poised to catch and ride the edges of two waves: the technology capability wave’ and the ‘market needs wave’

Finding the next wave is essential for sustainability, and when an organization catches the next wave and its formation is just right, the effects on business are transformational…

There is no shortage of new innovations in the world, but innovations without execution are just that, innovations…It’s vital to have the courage to champion your innovation with passion and conviction, take the appropriate risks to ensure that it goes from a sketch to a finished product, and the tenacity to ensure that nothing gets in the way of seeing it to commercialization… According to Shawn Parr; innovation is hard, because it means finding new, original ways to solve problems, or inventing something completely new. There are always significant barriers in the journey to commercialize innovation, which is laden with many challenges, reasons to quit… It takes incredible determination to do something new for the first time and overcome the obstacles to succeed…

According to Edward Draper; innovation is like a wave; there are people in it, and people riding on it. The trick is to ride the wave your are on, and to prepare for the next wave… Like surfing and comedy, timing is everything; if you try to move too soon you are likely to be wiped-out or lost– if you move too late all the energy is gone… Innovation is scary– and not just to those that are being disrupted… but also for the disruptor who is driving radical change, and although it might be very exciting… but it’s also full of risk… An innovative wave is full of adrenalin-fuelled energy, and best place to be is– riding its crest, like the surfer…

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According to Alex Frankel; surfing is all about spotting the opportunity to crest the wave in a turbulent environments… In big-wave surfing, you must stay calm in chaos, and the big attraction in surfing is that you never master it, very much like business… That’s why people get so hooked; as soon as you think that you have everything wired, a wave comes along and wipes you out, again very much like business… According to Sharad Sharma; surfing the waves of innovation means having behavioral traits, such as; stepping outside one’s comfort zone… having an internal compass, relying on one’s self-mastery… getting comfortable to stand out, being an underdog… persisting in the face of adversity…

According to David Brier; the single difference between the innovator and the ordinary person; innovators sees the dots and connected them, while others 1) didn’t see them, or 2) if they did, they didn’t– explore, question, or connect any of them… It’s a constant attentiveness to how things are applied… it’s the foundation for innovation…

So what is innovation? It’s those other dots; the ones others miss… and, having the certainty to know that the dots you see are not only valid, but necessary if the world is to move forward…

Business Breakthroughs– Customers Involvement– Listen to Customers Vs. Don’t Listen to Customer: Understand Differences…

Business breakthroughs shape and redefine markets and industries… a breakthrough is moving beyond incrementalism… great brands lead customers, and not the other way around… however, the concept of business breakthroughs often leads to controversial discussion of– What is the customer’s role in the process?

Some experts suggest that breakthroughs evolves from a shift in customer involvement– from asking customers what they want, to a broader understanding of their needs and drivers… pretty much in accordance with the message of targeting customers on the level of needs, rather than on the level of solutions… Breakthroughs address ‘needs’ that customers often cannot articulate and solutions that they cannot even imagine; hence, the customer’s feedback is mostly marginal when defining breakthrough requirements… in effect, breakthroughs require understanding customers, but not necessarily listening to them…

According to Shaun Smith; of course you need to listen to customers to keep business continuously improving and to identify problems with existing customer experience… But, what customers say they want from you is probably exactly the same thing they tell your competitors too– so if you act on that alone, there is likely to be more in common between you and your competitors than there is that sets you apart. Customers want to be surprised and delighted and to surprise and delight them you don’t have to ask, but you do have to understand them…

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According to  Steve Jobs; it sounds logical to ask customers what they want and then give it to them, but they rarely wind up getting what they really want that way… Seeing beyond customers’ requests is something that is easier said than done… According to Tom Peters and others; the customers that are least likely to help you move on to the next innovation are the biggest customers you have… ask them what they want and it’s likely to be the usual thing– better, faster, cheaper… 

They want a better version of what they already have… Innovative businesses are adept at seeing under the surface of what customers really want, and they understand that customers don’t really know what they want until they actually see it. This ability is best expressed by a German word ‘zeitgeist’; which means the emerging spirit of the age or mood of the moment, and it’s probably best translated as market readiness or customer readiness– the ability to see what the market is ready for, before the market knows it itself… According to Henry Ford; if he had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses…

In the article Delight Customers By Giving Them What They Didn’t Ask For by David Sturt writes: When customers ask you for something, your first inclination is to give it to them. Naturally, your goal is to deliver value to those who pay the bills… And, the customer is always right, right? But it depends; when it comes to breakthroughs, customers can be woefully inadequate sources for new solutions. Inventors of market-disrupting ideas know that what people think will attract them to a new product or service may often be very different from what actually does…

According to Mark Cuban; your customers can tell you the things that are broken and how they want to be made happy: Listen to them. Make them happy. But don’t rely on them to create the future road map for your product or service: That’s your job… Does that mean you ignore customer opinions altogether, and trust only intuitive geniuses to design the future? Or, take the opposite approach and try to get your customers to tell you what’s next? The answer is somewhere in between, and that’s where breakthroughs gets messy, and interesting. According to Steve Jobs; it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them…

True breakthrough is really the art of what product developers call empathic design, and empathic design involves careful consumer observation and investigation– rather than traditional market research– to identify latent, inarticulate needs that customers may not even know they have… In other words, you can’t ask customers to do your thinking for you. But you can become so familiar with customer habits, problems, and patterns that you are able to surprise them with a solution they didn’t even know was possible until you give it to them…

Often the problem with customer feedback, is that they simply can’t get out of the gravitational pull of what currently exists– customer-led breakthrough leads to sameness and incrementalism… According to a ‘Harvard Business Review article on empathic design; sometimes customers are so accustomed to current conditions that they don’t think to ask for a new solution; in other words, customers can’t always tell you what they need, you can only find out by seeing for yourself…

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In the article Don’t Listen to Customers by Sherrie Mersdorf writes: I disagree with the statement that you should ‘never’ listen to customers… without listening to customers it’s impossible to sustain a business… but ‘only’ listening to customers is unsustainable, as well: Obviously there is be a middle ground… Hence, in order for a business to excel and prosper they must develop offerings that not only meet existing customers needs, but also meet needs that their customers don’t even know exists…

Business leaders must always be reminded that– it’s not the job of their customers to ‘know what they don’t know’. In other words, most customers have a tough enough time just doing their jobs, and don’t spend any time trying to reinvent markets or industries… Sure, every now and then, you come across a person at a customer site who has exceptional insights and who can be useful to help you define the next generation product or service, but this person is rare and you cannot bet the business on finding that one person…

According to Alan Kay; the best way to predict the future is to invent it. Of course you need to listen to customers, and take their feedback, hear their pain, listen to what’s broken, and also do something beyond their imaginations. If you don’t do something beyond what customers know they want, someone else will. Most customers cannot really imagine the breakthrough ‘value’ or ‘need’ until they see it and experience it… then, you need to listen to them when they tell you what’s broken and what delights them… Yes, listen to them, delight them, but don’t expect them to create the future road map for your business: That’s your job…

In the article Great Brand Don’t Always Listen to Customers by Bruce Temkin writes: Should business eliminate or ignore their customers insights or abandon the voice of customers in their quest for breakthroughs? No, but they do need to understand basic customer issues, and listen for and recognize value factors that are limiting customers’ performance… Let’s examine a few realities of customer feedback:

  • Customers are grounded in today: Customers are not very good at projecting the future and even less effective at explaining what they need when things change…
  • Customers are most articulate about dislikes: When it comes to bad experiences, customers know it when they see it, and they are more likely to share information about it. According to research; 34% of consumers give feedback to a company after a very bad experience, but only 21% did the same after a very good experience…
  • Customers are least articulate about their desires: It’s very hard to understand what customers truly desire, since they often don’t recognize it themselves, or limit their focus to match their preconceived view of your business…
  • Customers aren’t designers: Customers cannot tell you how to design your products or services. You must have strong people in your organization that can architect the important customer experiences…

In the article Don’t Listen to Your Customers by Leonard Koenig writes: Listen to your customers– that’s what they teach in business school, that’s what most business leaders preach… And it makes sense, it’s the single most important thing successful companies do; well maybe, yes and no… To a certain degree, it’s yes, even necessary to listen to customers, but beware, it’s a fairly shortsighted way of operating a business, and it can put you out of business in the long run… First, by listening diligently to customers, you narrow-in on a specific value network and you may forget to think holistic, broad, big picture… Second, and most important you forget to innovate…

The best– and the worst– way of learning about market demand is to ask the customer: Yes, it’s the ‘best’ way because customers can provide valuable feedback… Yes, it’s the ‘worst’ way because customers really don’t really know what they want; they know what their problems are, and what they like and what they don’t like… And typically, customers just ask for ‘more’; more features, more options, more performance, more, more… Customers will always ask for something based on what they already know or have already experienced… According to Ann Latham; yes you should listen to customers but don’t just do as they say! Too often customers know what they want but not what they need…

Most customers often can’t think out of their current paradigm to consider something new or revolutionary… The only way to really tell what you’re customers will do is not to ask, but to give them a choice and watch them choose… The companies that look beyond what their customers say or what they ask for, and also spend the time to discover what they really ‘need’ seem to be the businesses that really succeed. According to David; give people what they need, not what they think they want. The gap between ‘need’ and ‘want’ is trap that separates ‘good’ from ‘great’ businesses. It’s not an easy trap to avoid and responding to a customer ‘s every expressed whim is process that gives you mediocrity.

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According to Michael Krigsman; customers can be extremely helpful in identifying gaps in products, but real breakthroughs doesn’t usually come from customers. Yes, you should absolutely listen to customers, but don’t expect that they will always lead you to the place you want to be… According to Gary Hamel; the future is already with us, and it’s just at the edges… What starts off as fringe ends up mainstream. So, if  you are going to listen to customers you may want to start with those noisy, complaining, fringe customers who are always asking for something completely different from what you are currently offering, of course, providing they are really your target customers…

Remember that true business breakthroughs, true change, will never happen through simply listening to customers… Finding the perfect balance between listening to your customers on one hand, and maintaining a broad, holistic, and sustainable strategy, on the another hand, is very challenging…

But just listening to your customers is a sure-fire way to set yourself up for short-term success and long-term failure. Stay curious, stay open, stay creative, keep innovating, keep pushing for breakthroughs; think different, think big… business’ job is to give customers not what they want, but what they never dreamed that they wanted; then when they gets it, they recognizes it as something they wanted all along…