Managing Innovation Through Strength

Peter Drucker wrote an article ‘Managing Oneself’ that focused on how workers need to examine themselves and focus on specific improvements that will allow them to be successful. I’ll relate Drucker’s argument on managing oneself to managing innovation. What is managing innovation? It’s achieving success through administration, control, and influence.

Step one – figure out what are your strengths. 

Most people are completely unaware of their strengths. They believe they understand their weaknesses (their boss usually complains about those) but even, then the filters that they put on make it easy to mollify the harsh into something that feels less harsh. For generations people did not need to know their strengths and weaknesses – they were born into their careers. But now that people have options in life, we need to know the fields in which we can be successful. Not good at communication? I’d suggest you stay away from psychotherapy. Not so good at motor skills? Please don’t become my surgeon. Our weaknesses limit us, but our strengths let us shine.

The key to determining your strengths and weaknesses according to Drucker is feedback analysis. Set SMART goals (as discussed in a past post), and record the metrics you would need to be successful. Did you hit your target? You’ll find out shortly, and the numbers won’t let you reconfigure the truth.

Apple II - wires!Product innovation requires a similar mapping between current state and future paths. It’s necessary to figure out what the market is looking for, and use your strengths to exceed consumer expectations. This requires market research that comes down to the consumer’s psychological level. Understanding the emotional implications of a confusing product can be complicated so you need to use human centered design research to uncover what can make your users happy.

Once you determine your products strengths, you need unrelenting focus on explaining that to the consumers. If you’re principal product strength is ease of use, every ad better make that clear. For instance, if you’re Apple computer in 1984, that means showing off how your product is simple and easy to use. IBM had more powerful computers that were complicated and ugly and Apple realized what their wheelhouse was – a beautiful box with no wires.

Don’t ignore your weaknesses. When analyzing your market consumer research, figure out what the roadblocks are to success. Did you find out that your new widget isn’t light enough (but it sure is shiny!)? Don’t waste your time reinventing your widget if your consumers really just want a gleaming widget – burnish with vigor. As Drucker said, “It takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.” You’ll find that it’s easier to be successful as the leader in your niche, than to be a jack of all trades – and master of none.