Innovation beyond the slogan – rAVe [PUBS]
I’ve written a lot about innovation over the years and if you’ve read any of my blogs on the subject, you know I’m pretty skeptical about using the term most of the time.
Many people use “innovation” to describe iterative improvements over time, and I’ve come to terms with that as a valid, if often dull, way to describe a new product or service. . I also understand that many innovations are not in the products themselves, but can be behind the scenes of manufacturing processes, market strategies and supply chains (yes please) and more difficult to see from the point of view of the end user, but of the company that uses them, they are invaluable.
As a biology buff, I’ve always compared innovation through iterative improvement to natural selection. A species of bird may over time select stronger beaks to crack seeds and nuts better, and over time the new beak will be the standard bearer, and this version of the bird is better adapted to its current environment. However, it’s still a bird, and in fact most of the rest of the bird is the same as it always was.
If you see innovation, as I’ve heard some describe it, as non-linear evolution, then you go beyond iterative improvement and get something completely different. The appearance of a new species, without a clear lineage of predecessors, which appears and competes with all other animals in the ecosystem. This is the type of disruptive innovation that alters markets and industries, often reshuffling the cards and establishing a new hierarchy and power structure.
Of course, this type of innovation is much more difficult to find, because it is not obvious. In fact, it’s often counter-intuitive. It’s the kind of change that people say will “never take off” or “will not last” and that often escapes human expectations and succeeds.
Many innovations we see are repackaging of old ideas or existing technologies, and in these cases we often see marketing stepping in and selling old ideas as “innovation”. However, there is a small window to capitalize on this perception of marketing-driven innovation.
Why do you ask?
Let’s say that a product is presented as innovative and in fact only uses common technology and well-established integration methods. If the product offers no value beyond previous iterations, it may have some initial success, but then the truth becomes known and it quickly falls into oblivion.
On the other hand, if the product provides demonstrable value in its new incarnation, those who know the truth about the elemental nature of the technology and methods used can quickly and easily copy the product and methodology, because there is no really nothing innovative other than the marketing that surrounds it, and that can be easy to capitalize on.
Fast followers let the trailblazer experience all the initial market resistance and create demand, then come and share the spoils of that hard work.
True innovation is harder to copy because no one else has a clue what you actually do or how you do it. It is innovation beyond the slogan.