48 Laws of Innovation



I was reading an abstract on the 48 Laws of Power (Greene & Elffers, 2000) and started thinking, “Wow, you have to be incredibly devious and unscrupulous to be successful in the business if these laws really work." I won’t get into whether or not I believe they ought to be followed, but instead I will twist a select few into the 48 Laws of Innovation and explain why a few others just don’t work.

Some of the laws listed are just too far in right field for me to massage. For instance, #7 - Get others to do the Work for you, but Always Take the Credit - I just don’t know how to make that an enviable innovation principle. Oh, what the heck, I’ll give it a shot. How about - Get others to force your thinking in ways you’re not used to, but Always Take the Credit. Is that close? Ok, scrap the last clause and that’s a pretty good law.

Law 1: Never Outshine the Master

So you have an amazing idea that you want to mobilize into your business. To ensure it takes off, allow your manager to believe they thought of the idea. They will feel superior/brilliant about their wild new idea and may be able to connect with the right people to see the product come to fruition. You still look good, and will eventually attain tree-topping heights of power.

Law 4: Always Say Less than Necessary (Prototype instead!)

When you are trying to impress people with an innovative idea, you run the risk of over boring the audience, or worse, appearing not in control of your concept. Convey your idea in a few powerful words sprinkled with a beautiful prototype.

Law 5: So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life

Your ability to spread innovation within your business is highly dependent upon others belief in your skill and reputation. As Sun Tzu would say if he were working at IBM, “Reputation is the foundation of power.”  Don’t allow your image to falter in the workplace. Even if you’re in a meeting on a ‘non-innovative idea’ (those are the worst!), you are still being observed by potential suitors for your product. Make sure your reputation remains solid.

Law 6: Court Attention (For your idea) at all Cost 

Your product’s potential for success is contingent upon an appearance of success. In the beginning phases of selling the idea, you can’t let other products outshine yours. Stand out.  Be more exciting, majestic, and conspicuous no matter the cost.

Law 9: Win (believers) through your Actions, Never through Argument

So you’re pitching your idea to the c-suite and a contentious issue comes up. Remember, that any momentary victory you might feel will be Any momentary triumph you think gained through argument will be for naught as the resentment and frustration you create will be your downfall. It is much wiser to win supporters through actions and impressive concepts -- not feisty words.

Law 10: Infection: Avoid the UnCreative and UnInspired

Surrounding yourself with people who only spout banal and uninspired cliches will decrease your capacity for thinking big. Radical innovation cannot survive when your mind is forced to constantly accept parity of thinking. An infection can rapidly cause the death of thousands, an inspired idea can save millions if the spark is surrounded with oxygen (thinking without a ceiling) and fuel (supporters of breakthrough change).

I am stopping at 10 laws for now, but will come back and discuss the next 38 soon. I’m very excited to get to #48 -- Assume Formlessness. It might take a few days to figure out what that means in the realm of innovation, but surely there’s a way!