The 5 Assassins of Innovation
4. Helga the Historian: “It’s already been done/We’ve already tried that.” Helga lurks in unexpected places, including companies that are considered innovators by most standards. She’s the one who reminds the team, “We tried mobile back in 2002, and it was a disaster.” Let Helga know that it’s 2011 and times have changed.
Facebook didn’t invent social networking. Remember MySpace? And before that Friendster? And if you go way back, GeoCities? Sometimes it’s just the right idea at the wrong time. Other times it’s the right idea but it's executed poorly. There are countless reasons why innovations fail. The key is to learn from your mistakes and the successes of others to maximize your odds of producing a winner. Think about your most admired companies. Chances are few, if any, were the first to market. Let Helga know it’s not about being first, but about being better.
5. Big Al the Accountant: “We can’t afford it.” The economic downturn has lavished Al with a lot of extra ammunition. Companies believe they’re doing the right thing by staying with the tried and true, avoiding the risks of bringing a new idea to market. However, it’s companies that are continuing to invest in innovation during tough times that are emerging from the recession with higher growth rates. In this case, think small. Distill down a grand vision to its essential components and propose ways to execute it quickly and inexpensively.
Arming yourself against the assassins
The assassins aren't invincible (otherwise, I'd have made them superheroes). Know how they’ll attack and be prepared. To summarize, here are quotes from a couple of the smartest people I know: Sun Tzu: “Know your enemies and know yourself and you will win countless battles.” My mom: “Don’t forget to do your homework.”