Is it possible that the truly innovative, those refusing to be held back by convention or cost, can attain perfection?

First you have to define ‘innovation’. For me, innovation solves a problem in a different and novel way. Then you have to define ‘perfection’, which for me means that nothing requisite is wanting from a product, service, or solution.

There are three ways to innovate

Customer-focused innovation

This is delivered by spending huge amounts of time with customers: observing them and their challenges, learning their pain points, gaining insight into their hurdles – and then developing a new product or service to solve one of their problems. The way DeWalt build their tools is a great example of this.

Market-led innovation

The perfect example of this is Apple. They tend not to be the first to market with new technology, but when they deliver, they improve on what already exists. Premium laptops, tablets, smart phones, wearables; they weren’t the first in any of those but they lead those categories today.

Internal-led innovation

This requires a huge amount of investment in R&D to find and create solutions to problems that people don’t know that they have. As you can imagine, this is both risky and expensive – but when it pays off, it pays off big. Who knew that the world needed Velcro before it was invented?

 

Each company sets their innovation strategy

YellowDog is a customer-focused innovator. We work hard to understand the problems that we hear about from our customers and solve them in surprising and delightful ways through our technology. How a person innovates at work depends on the company that they are with, and that company’s choice of innovation strategy. There is not necessarily a right way to innovate but this is the right approach for YellowDog.

People solve problems

Once you understand what innovation strategy you’re following as a company, and you’re able to clearly articulate what the problem you’re trying to solve is, I believe that the best way to innovate is to bring people together who have different perspectives and points of view and work with them to solve the problem. Those different perspectives are key.

Companies that have broken the mould have usually started with small teams that think big. Ryan Holmes, Dario Meli, and David Tedman founded Hootsuite; it is now worth millions. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne founded Apple (which you may have heard of).

Chance has a role to play too

You can’t downplay the element of luck and serendipity. Who could have predicted that the humble Biro pen would be such a revolution during the second world war for the Royal Air Force? What fascinates me is that innovators don’t often realise that what they are doing is hard. Sometimes, approaching a problem from a different angle, tackling it with a different perspective, means that the search for a solution is as exciting as it is challenging.

Perfection isn’t life

I believe that a product or service can never be perfect. ‘Perfection’ suggests that nothing changes: that the people don’t change, that the business context doesn’t change, that the external environment doesn’t change. Nothing exists in such a static environment.

That’s why innovation will never attain perfection

True innovation is solving the problems that are important to people. Change is inherent to life – and life itself owes much to the unpredictability of change – so true innovators have to change and adapt as their customers, their environment, and their businesses change too.

Solving the problem in the right way, in a different and novel way, will naturally create and require innovation – it just won’t be perfect.

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