PubCon: 10 Tips for Successful Innovation

    November 14, 2006

Guy Kawasaki delivered the opening keynote address at this year’s PubCon. In his talk, he gave a detailed overview outlining ten specific points that innovative companies should heed when developing new products and services.

PubCon: 10 Tips For Successful Innovation
PubCon: 10 Tips For Successful Innovation

#1) Make Meaning – One of the most important keys to innovation is making meaning. As an innovator, developing meaningful products is key to long-term success. The goal of any innovation should be to improve people’s lives and make them more productive.

Kawasaki elaborates, “We thought MSDOS was a crime against humanity. Apple made things to solve that problem.”

Venture capitalists are looking for people who are interested in “making meaning” with their innovative strategies. If you are looking for VC funding and you’re focused on flipping the company within three years and making a fortune, the best kinds of investors are not going to be interested.

#2) Make a Mantra – A company’s mantra shouldn’t consist of a superfluous mission statement, as these are often too long and not memorable or indicative of where an innovator’s focus lies. Instead, come up with two or three words that simply explain why you exist. For example:

eBay – Democratize Commerce
FedEx – Peace of Mind

For stodgy pretentious mission statements and mantras, you’re just as well off to use the Dilbert mission statement generator. It’s free, it’s quick, and it requires no meetings or corporate retreats.

Kawasaki reiterates this philosophy, “Mantras ladies and gentlemen, not mission statements. Mission statements are bullshit.”

#3) Jump to the Next Curve – Don’t limit your innovations to incremental changes of existing products, look ahead and think about what kinds of problems could be solved or needs met by a whole new product.

“If you’re the daisy wheel printer company 15 years ago, you shouldn’t be thinking about innovation in terms of 5 new font sizes of Helvetica font, you should be thinking about laser printer,” notes Kawasaki.

#4) Roll the DICEE – Guy Kawasaki’s Acronym:

Depth: Great products and services are deep and will grow with you along the way. Take the Reef Fanning Sandal, for example, there is a bottle opener built in to the sole of the sandal. It serves more than one purpose; it covers your feet and opens your drinks. That’s what makes it a deep product.

Intelligent: You have to actively anticipate the products and services that people will need. The Panasonic BF-104 flashlight works with three different battery sizes. Panasonic recognized a common problem; people routinely have batteries, and flashlights, but not the right batteries for their flashlight. So they created a flashlight that accepts and works with three different size batteries in anticipation of this dilemma.

Completeness: Lexus doesn’t just sell cars; they take a holistic approach by focusing on excellence in presales, post sales, service and many other areas. By the same token Adobe Photoshop is a good program by itself, but it’s the plugins that help it truly shine. Always remember that ancillary services are huge.

Elegance: Look no further than the iPod Nano. Previous generation Japanese mp3 players had been around for years. These devices came loaded with lots of buttons, but Apple designed one wheel to do serve all the same functions — making the iPod far more elegant.

Emotive: Harley Davidson is a sterling example of the emotive approach to innovation. Like Harley, companies should seek to create an emotional attachment to their products and/or services, generating brand loyalty in the process.

#5) Don’t Worry, Be Crappy – Realistically, we live in a marketplace where you never have to say your sorry. It’s a fact of life in the modern world that you ship first and test later.

Kawasaki reminisces about the Macintosh, “If we had waited for tech to catch up and get ready for the first Mac, we would have been Xerox part two. It never would have made it of f the ground. Certainly we could have waited for better memory better processing and all that but you can’t let that type of thing serve as a roadblock to getting your product or idea out there.”

#6) Polarize People – Don’t be afraid to polarize the consumer base. In fact, great products frequently generate polarity among tech communites. When it comes to Mac and TiVo, one will usually find strong opinions on both sides of the spectrum.

Kawasaki states, “I love TV. It’s almost a sin to live in California and admit you love TV because it ruins children’s minds, but I love TV. Frankly i think spongebob prevents child abuse, but since I have TiVo, I have not watched a single commercial in months. I watch commercials on exactly 1 day of the year – Super Bowl Sunday. So, obviously a lot of people hate the TiVo for that very reason.”

#7) Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom – Even if the wrong people are your customers in large numbers, you still don’t have a problem. You have to plant flowers everywhere, because you don’t necessarily know who your next or best customers will be.

“I believe in God, because there is absolutely no other explanation for Apple’s survival. In the last couple of years we learned a lot about God. We learned he loves digital music and he wants everybody else to love digital music – and pay 99 cents per song,” asserts Kawasaki.

Go to the people that are buying the product and find out why; play to that. Kawaski elaborates, “Don’t try to convert atheists. It’s difficult to convert atheists to a new religion.”

Instead, focus on your current customers or customers that buy a competing product. Ask them what they like about the product and follow those leads.

Just because your product is popular with people you didn’t expect it to be popular with, it doesn’t automatically mean failure. You might just have to shift your ideas a little.

#8) Churn, Baby Churn – Part of being an innovator is constantly living in denial. You can’t listen to people that say “you can’t do this” or “you shouldn’t do that” or “you can’t launch until you have such and such feature”.

Once you ship, then you can begin to listen to the things that people say.

You can’t develop version 2.0 of your product until you settle on version 1.0. That’s when you can identify the shortcomings of your product or recognize future features/aspects that would be desirable to the consumer.

#9) Niche Thyself – When you aren’t unique but offer a valuable product, you have to compete on price. If you produce a unique product without value, you have a corner on the market, but nobody wants what you have to offer. So obviously, you want to offer a unique product that also has high value.

You should follow the 10/20/30 rule when pitching an idea to VCs.

•  10 – the optimal number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation; that’s it
•  20 – number of minutes to present the 10 slides as getting set up will normally take you 40 minutes
•  30 – often the optimal size font for presentation slides; find the oldest person in the audience and divide their age by 2 to find an optimal font size

#10) Don’t Let the Bozos Drive You Down – You have to ignore the naysayers when bringing you innovation to fruition. Usually, there are two types of bozos – the loser
and the well-to-do slickster rich guy, the latter being the most dangerous. You can’t assume someone is smart just because they are rich.

As an innovator, the words “can’t” and “shouldn’t” have to be expunged from your vocabulary.

Stay Tuned to WebProNews and our continuing coverage of PubCon ’06.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.