Great technology alone rarely constitutes innovation
Just because something is cool or never-been-seen-before, doesn’t mean it is innovation. Kamen told the story of the South Pointing Chariot that the ancient Chinese used to keep their heading in fog or on featureless terrain. It is a rather complex and amazing device but put in context that the Chinese also had the compass, the device seems a little unnecessary.
“Dark night of the innovator”
Innovation isn’t a straight path from project inception to completion. You ride a roller coaster between those two points and inevitably hit the “dark night of the innovator.” This is the point in the project where you think all it lost and you’ll never figure things out. This is indeed a major hurdle that you must overcome. Kamen quoted Winston Churchill, who said:
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
Don’t give up when you reach that dark night. Keep trying new things, working, and persevering. Eventually, you’ll get that miracle you deserve.
Innovation has Risk
Make sure you fall behind your schedule early … The sooner you fall behind, the more time you have to catch up.
It is less painful and costly to catch delays and problems early. However, this is exactly the time when no one wants to admit problems. Overcome that natural tendency to wait until the last minute to announce problems. Early warning makes everyone’s life easier.
Invent as a last resort
Leverage the work of others. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Doing so adds extra problems, bugs, and complexity to your project.
Kamen defined invention as “the art of concealing your sources.”
Solving the solution not the problem.
Too many times people try to correct the exisiting solution to a problem in order to fix the problem. This is like slapping a Band-Aid on a large injury. It just doesn’t work. Go back to the root cause of the problem and create a solution to address it. This will often force you to take a step back and rethink the entire situation. Clearing roadblocks can be time-consuming, but ultimately the process is necessary so you can continue down your path.
Forget What You Know
It’s not what you don’t know that inhibits innovation. It’s what we do know that just ain’t so.
The technical truths we hold so dear are constantly changing. If you fail to embrace change, you will be left behind. History is littered with those that didn’t accept and leverage new technologies to their benefit. Keep your mind open to change.
Not for Spectators
Innovation is not a spectator sport. Projects require management. Innovation requires leadership. Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.
Management should be actively leading innovative initiatives and projects.
When to innovate?
It wasn’t raining when Noah started building the ark.
You’ve launched a great product that is a huge success, bringing in tons of money. Don’t be “dumb, fat, and happy”. Start working on the next product now. If you wait, you’ll be broadsided by a competitor and have to scramble to respond.
Who should innovate?
Innovators are two types of people: optimists and pessimists. The optimist will build the airplane. The pessimist will create the parachute.
Key to the Future
Continuously innovating new products and services will guarantee your business will grow well into the future. The time is now to get to work. Keep trying new things and don’t be afraid to fail.