Innovation Should Scare You!

What’s that? Squirm? Yes indeed. If this doesn’t make you very uneasy something is wrong.
Innovation. That’s right. When we hear a new idea we expect that ‘ah ha’ moment. We expect the new idea to ‘resonate’ or feel right. If it doesn’t feel good, something must be wrong.
But that’s wrong. New ideas, innovations should make us a little uneasy. Ideas hatched within a comfort zone are generally stillborn. Nothing new there, move on. Yawn.Boring.
It’s that “it just might work” idea that has the power to change the game. If a new innovation doesn’t make you, you who are closest to that idea, stop in your shoes and shake a little, what impact will it have on your customer?
Ever see the same ole thing in a new package labeled “new and improved”? You know that a new package doesn’t change the stuff inside. Ah, you might try it and see if they actually did improve it but if you don’t experience significant change you won’t buy it again.
The safe “new and improved” approach might get you a few sales. However, the radical “new” that carries risk of rejection has the potential to change the game.
Consider the I-Phone. Apple spent a lot of money on that product. Think of the risk! They spent millions developing the product. Then they had the courage to manufacture millions of dollars worth of the product. Steve Jobs didn’t trot out a prototype and hope for ooohs and ahhhs. That would be reasonably safe. Instead, he demonstrated the new thing at a big event and announced that, “they go on sale next week. Line up folks.” And line up we did.
That completely changed the phone and camera markets.
Now think about how Google is fumbling around with Google Glass. A few different designs leak out. Then they sell a limited quantity for field testing. How’s that going? Not so great. The tech press is having a field day bashing the nerdy, silly looks of people wearing Glass. Consumer advocacy groups are protesting the potential invasion of privacy. [Would you care to be in a restroom with someone wearing Glass?] The ‘play it safe’ strategy is going to kill that product before it launches officially.
Here’s a quote worth remembering:

At Intel, Mary Murphy-Hoye exhorts researchers on her team, “Scare yourself, otherwise you aren’t doing anything new.”


Scare yourself!


Don’t misunderstand. There’s a difference between risk and reckless abandon. We have to be responsible with innovation. Problem is, we’ve become far too fearful of risk. We leave too much opportunity on the table for competition.


Think about this. In the past 20 years we’ve seen two things arise that are strangling independent businesses. First is, of course, foreign competition. Cheaper. Cheaper. Cheaper.


The other dangerous trend is that of the cancerous mega-corporation. Super corporations dominate entire categories. They control what is available to buyers and they control price. The independent business cannot compete without innovating.


Does your business want to go from surviving to thriving? Innovate. Do what your biggest competitors cannot do.


And if those new ideas make you a little uneasy? Good. You’re probably on the right track!


If the notion of starting an innovation process at your company makes you uncomfortable? Well, you know what that means.


Chris Reich, TeachU