innovation

Systemic Authenticity

If you’re looking for a great way to drive towards top line growth, check out a recent article by Uri Neren (CEO of Innovator’s International) where he writes about mission-led companies delivering great results they can stand behind. The primary example he uses is Patagonia’s 2011 provocative ad campaign ‘Don’t buy this jacket.’ Why would they produce an ad like this? Simple – they believe that people should buy fewer things, and if they bought a Patagonia jacket they’d buy fewer jackets over time because their jackets last longer than the completion. Win – win.  The lesson is simple – set a mission that you believe in (ideally one that produces greater good for the world, ok?) and come up with some creative strategies to accomplish it. One last thing, make sure you truly know your business, yourself and your team. Unless, you truly believe in your mission, you'll never win.  I’m working with Uri now on establishing an emerging entrepreneurs group at Innovator’s International and can attest to Uri’s knowledge of delivering growth for small and large companies. Take a second look at your company's mission, update it if necessary and then start delivering on what you stand for. 

When Innovation Matters

 

Innovation in and of itself is great. I think most would agree that from baby steps to big steps, any use of technology or new frameworks for operations/products are important. However, I would argue that it's not until people (let's call it a critical mass) actually use and find benefit in innovation that it truly matters. Friendster and even Myspace were great mechanisms for building a social community but they didn't provide the widespread network needed to foster change. Similarly, Orkut (a Google product) never caught on with Americans.

 For some reason, Brazilians use Orkut more than any other nation (59.1% of users are from Brazil) even though Google has moved on to Google+. Similarly, there were several small steps that made the iPad/iPhone possible. Tablets weren't anything new in 2010, but Apple (okay, Steve) found a way to revolutionize how we use them. He paved the way with an app store, eager consumers/developers, and a sync system that made it all easy. Then, once 15 million consumers opened their wallets, the ocean parted. We now have an incredibly useful device that makes communication, content aggregation, and gaming easier and more fun. It's that 'tipping point' moment when a product  catches on and moves the needle from interesting, to game changing. Lesson? Creating great products is important. But you need to convince execs, VCs, and consumers that what you thought up is valuable and worthy of your time and money. 

 

Prototypes Are Innovator's Friends

Sometimes innovation is difficult to comprehend. Like many ideas, it takes a good communicator to bring a concept to life through sharing it with others. As I stated earlier, a key difference between creativity and innovation is developing a product from your ideas that people appreciate and buy into. When attempting communication, it's clear now more than ever that transmitting thoughts to others requires the ability to appreciate how the recipient can best understand it. While many theorists break down communication into just two factors - verbal and non-verbal - I believe there are many more which must be considered and mastered.
Howard Gardner is a developmental psychologist famous for his theory of multiple intelligences. His theory is that instead of using just one general intelligence (e.g. IQ), a more accurate method is to use the 8 he identified (linguistic, logic-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic). If you believe his model is accurate, a clear corollary is that you should attempt to use the channel matched to the respondent's highest intelligence. You're obviously not going to ask your audience to take Sternberg's assessment to gauge the way you'll share your information. A better solution is to (1) use the intelligence you see them use most often, or  (2) if you haven't had the time to see their thinking style use the channel that you believe most easily tells your story. If your idea is highly visual sketch it out. If your idea is logical, use a flow-chart (Visio diagram). 
 
A clear difficulty with this approach is that you may not have the skill-set required to use the channel best suited for the communication. Because of this potential limitation I recommend working on improving your abilities in the areas with which you're least skilled and think there's the greatest payoff for improvement. Over several years I taught myself how to use Photoshop and Final Cut Pro. In addition, I've taken several courses on Lynda.com including those covering Excel, Visio, and Access. Each of these applications gave me new channels for conveying concepts and stories in ways words never could. The new trend on blogs is to recommend that people learn how to program/code, but I think a more appropriate knowledge challenge is to learn a new way of conveying ideas. You may only get once chance to tell your story so after you're done conceiving, you had better design a way to tell others about it that is engaging, understandable, and memorable. Now head to your local public library and learn a new prototyping skill.