Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Entrepreneur and Innovation

Last year I was approached by a local consulting group to create an Innovation Practice for them. Because I have so many inventions and created so many things of value they, and I, wrongly thought that we could build a practice of it. What a crock of, well, you know. I tried to apply myself to it for a couple of months, followed all the popular stuff, got into it, and found that it could only be a scam which could go nowhere. Sure it could make the consultants and me some money, but there is no honor in fooling stupid people. So I bailed out.

It became increasingly clear to me that the term innovation is about hindsight. I have done many 'innovative' things, but at the time I didn't think about innovation. Later, when there was a bandwagon going down the street, others, who I see in hindsight didn't have a [Censored] clue, celebrated the 'innovation,' patted me on the back, and tried to run around and get in front of the parade. I always felt humiliated inside and did my usual orthogonal turn and headed off somewhere else leaving it all to them.

To innovate is to introduce something new. To create something new is to invent, which is really to find or discover, to devise by thinking. And in that process what you think about is not an innovation; it is a solution. It is a solution that is good - the best solution. It comes from a love of work and taking risks, a drive to do it well, to see a need and understand it, and to being very, very, attentive to the details. It is the goodness of the result that gets people's attention. It is the satisfaction of their needs and wants that creates real value. It is their discovery that there is more than they thought in the world. It is making something that is great.

So when you listen to someone talk about innovation consider that you are really listing to someone with 'has been' thoughts trying to sound hip and on top of it.

Just do it right, do it well, think it out, and take the step forward. If your idea changes the way people do or perceive things and they pat you on the back for being innovative, it is time to run for you are in the presence of the 21st Century's version of the unwashed masses and their hunger to touch creativity will eat you alive.

What does all this mean to the entrepreneur? Simple, don't think about innovating; just come up with a great answer to someone's needs and sell it to them. Keep it that simple and the rest will be history. Leave the talking about innovation to the non-creative, you don't have time to be with them, you are on the way to your next great thought!

Copyright 2008 Barry W Thornton all rights reserved

2 comments:

Paul Teich said...

You can make money as an innovation consultant without the scam. Lots of folks make good, honest livings as innovation consultants. The good ones are not innovators themselves - they are "creative" types who take their customers through focus groups, expert interviews, and brainstorming sessions to uncover unmet needs in the market and interesting new ways to address those needs. There are specializations in intellectual property discovery, identifying new product categories, refining new product ideas, etc.

Good innovation consultants know that innovation is a continuous process (call it a way of life) and that breakthroughs do not happen on a defined schedule. They know that they can't tell their clients what the future holds, but by talking to enough experts and customers they can help their clients uncover unmet needs and define creative ways to address those needs.

The results are not always market changing (or even successful), but they usually qualify as "innovative."

Innovators share a lot in common with pioneers...for every success story there are dozen who didn't make it.

Paul Teich said...

You can make money as an innovation consultant without the scam. Lots of folks make good, honest livings as innovation consultants. The good ones are not innovators themselves - they are "creative" types who take their customers through focus groups, expert interviews, and brainstorming sessions to uncover unmet needs in the market and interesting new ways to address those needs. There are specializations in intellectual property discovery, identifying new product categories, refining new product ideas, etc.

Good innovation consultants know that innovation is a continuous process (call it a way of life) and that breakthroughs do not happen on a defined schedule. They know that they can't tell their clients what the future holds, but by talking to enough experts and customers they can help their clients uncover unmet needs and define creative ways to address those needs.

The results are not always market changing (or even successful), but they usually qualify as "innovative."

Innovators share a lot in common with pioneers...for every success story there are dozen who didn't make it.