Monthly Archives: November 2010

Enemies of Innovation

Innovation can be a nasty business. It requires energy and creativity, resources such as people’s budgets and time as well as the need to manage the stress and actions of those that don’t want change. Staff don’t like it as it can threaten their job security, perks, status and even their remuneration.  However its a necessary evil because organisations that stand still will always die.   A favourite author/economist of mine, Paul Ormerod calls it the only sustainable competitive advantage.

From what I can see, there are two types of people trying to block innovation within organisations.

Passive Blockers

Firstly the passive types. Their arguments against innovation include:

  • “We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work”. Read – I think you’re wasting your time.
  • “Others are already doing it”. Read – I think you’re wasting your time and haven’t done your research properly.
  • “Glad you have got the energy, I really think you should look at this instead” – a misdirection.
  • “Okay, I will look into it” – The do nothing strategy
  • “Sounds fabulous, I’m excited, I will get back to you with how I can support this”  Then they do nothing – The more insidious version of the do nothing strategy, favoured by public servants.

To deal with them seems to take a couple of strategies,

  1. The fear strategy – gain sponsorship from higher up, to undermine their birthright to block you, then go heavy on the documentation of what you are doing so that every conversation is recorded and they are aware they will be held accountable.
  2. The greed strategy – get sponsorship from higher up, then get them on board so that they can see they can derive kudos, new opportunities and new financial rewards from an supporting an innovation programme.

Of course a mixture of both, carrot and stick, works too.

Active Blockers

The active blockers will put real energy into trying to stop innovation.  Their arguments to stop innovation occurring normally follow a flawed pattern such as:

  • Focusing on the little picture, not the big picture and ignoring externalities. e.g. Not showing market data in a historical context or not overlaying current trends is a usual tactic.
  • Use today’s economics, not future economics. If a carbon surcharge is likely to be added onto the manufacturing cost of an item into the future, this alternative should also be included when analysing options.
  • No comparing apples with apples. For instance the cost of energy generated from coal is normally calculated without the sunk costs of infrastructure, however the cost of alternate energy sources always has its infrastructure amortised in.
  • Highlighting risk of innovation as compared to maintaining the status quo. This argument always treats the current situation “because it is what it is” as a zero risk option. In fact this couldn’t be further from the truth. In both biology and economics, everything eventually fails unless there is innovation.

The strategy here is twofold.

  1. You must have the data to support your argument, but keep your powder dry. Be ready to present simple visualisations of the data to support any counterargument you wish to make.
  2. You need to use the same strategies that you use to deal with the passive blockers. Get sponsorship from higher up, make the blocker clearly accountable and finally, offer them opportunities.

This isn’t of course a complete list, however it is complete list of innovation blocking I have seen in action.

Accept the fact that Innovation is a nasty business and will generate you enemies. But as I was told when I studied to be an Army Officer, if you haven’t pissed someone off, you’re probably pandering to minority groups and therefore not being a good leader.

5 things I hate hearing from Entrepreneurs

Bit tired and emotional this week from competing deadlines. This generally brings out my more caustic side, so I  thought I would share lines I hate hearing, and which instantly kill any meeting for me with young entrepreneurs. Most of which I’ve heard more than once in the last month.

We hope to…

There is a management text by Ted Gee that I will never buy. Its called “Hope is not a Strategy”.  I won’t buy it becuase the title pretty much tells the entire story.   If you hope to do something, it means you have no plan, perhaps don’t value research or planning or simply just too lazy to plan. Lack of plan almost always equals lack of success.

Just getting the message out..

This means you haven’t really put much thought into what exactly your product or service is, who exactly will buy it and why they will buy it. Lack of marketing plan = lack of marketing success.

You’ve got to dress for success…

Idiot! Of course its of benefit to present well, but people that mouth this off almost always have no substance. They believe in magic success buttons that they can press. Success in any venture is always a mixture of intelligence, hard work, passion, persistence and a bit of luck.

We are doing everything right, why isn’t it working…

This means that you perceive yourself as a dynamic successful entrepreneur. Unfortunately you can’t see reality too well. You are closed minded and refusing to adapt to market conditions whilst your venture dies a slow death. If you find yourself saying this. Take a deep breath slap yourself and embrace change, not more of the same.

We are a boutique but full service …

Boutique means small, full service means you do everything. Therefore by being full service you must be pretty much crap at everything because you don’t have the resources to be good. Really, some people thing this is a positive statrment.

I hope you hear none of these in the coming weeks, but unfortunately they seem all too common.

eBook Reader V’s Tablet

On the weekend I was having a chat by the pool with a friend of mine who is an executive producer at Channel 9. We see each other every week as the kids have swimming lessons at the same time. Last week she was thinking about Christmas presents for the kids as well as specifically thinking about what she wanted.

She had decided to give almost all the books away that she owns at the school fete, and instead get herself something to read electronic books as she spends a bit of time on planes. The question was”does she go for a tablet computer like an iPad, or an eBook reader like a Kindle?” She wanted my advice, not on brands, but on which format would suit her best. Since others are likely to be making a similar decision this Christmas, I thought I’d share some thoughts.

The eBook Reader

The upside

  • They are cheap (AUD$100-$300).
  • They are lightweight (300gm-600gm).
  • They use very little power (will run 10-14 days between charges).
  • You don’t care what the operating system is, only what eBook formats they can read.
  • The electronic ink format is still comfortable to read in bright sunlight.

The downside:

  • They are pretty much only useful for reading books and listening to music.

The Tablet Computer

The upside

  • You can read books, listen to music, watch movies, surf the internet, send email, update facebook, make phone calls and run hundreds of thousands of applications.

The downside:

  • They are more expensive (AUD$200-$1,000).
  • They are heavier (iPad with 3G weighs 750gm).
  • They need to be recharged everyday if you are using them heavily.
  • The operating system you choose (Apple iPad, Google Android, Windows, others). determines which applications you can use.
  • They are a waste of time in bright sunlight, especially when covered with finger prints.

Her decision was that an eBook reader was probably best. She based this on the fact that they are cheap, so if its a mistake its not a big deal if she has made a mistake. When she decides she wants more, she will then upgrade to a tablet. Within the next 6 months there will be apparently 80 new tablet launches so there will a lot more value around features available and a lot of price competition downstream.

Since I don’t use the iPad for reading books (I like paperbacks) the tablet makes sense for me. It gets mostly used for surfing the net, email and the kids watching movies on long car trips. However I have got my eye on the Notion Ink’s Adam tablet which is due out in the US by Christmas. Its a highly spec’d Android based tablet which will utilise Pixel Qi’s screen technology which can be run in full colour mode or a low power electronic ink mode. Effectively the best of both worlds!