Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Guy Kawasaki on Innovation

Guy Kawasaki, plain-spoken serial entrepreneur and legendary venture capitalist recently gave one of the keynote addresses at the National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference in Chicago. Drawing from his books The Art of Innovation and its newer iteration Reality Check, Kawasaki outlined 10 things to realize and incorporate into one's habits, mindsets, and behaviors to be innovative. To fully appreciate Kawasaki and his work, one has to understand the tacit assumption from which he operates (it may be tacit but it is loud and strong: INNOVATE OR DIE!)

Strive to do the following:

  1. Make meaning. "The people who wake up in the morning wanting to make meaning usually succeed. The people who want to make money usually fail. Those who perpetuate good things, cause good things, or end bad things – those are the innovators." Kawasaki illustrates this with the Nike ad aimed at women. The ad sells the idea that when you exercise, you empower yourself. Nike turned two pieces of cotton and rubber (shoes) into efficacy, liberation, and power. Nike is making meaning out of shoes. They are selling self-empowerment, not shoes.
  2. Make a mantra. "Most organizations make mission statements and most mission statements suck!" By contrast, a mantra is no more than two or three words." Kawasaki's offers examples of mantras he would adopt based on places he frequents. Wendy’s should be “healthy fast food;” Nike stands for “authentic athletic performance;” eBay represents “democratization of commerce;” and Target could be “democratize design.” Kawasaki suggests that a bad mission statement creates a bad company vision.
  3. Jump to the next curve. "Don’t be satisfied battling it out on the same curve as all of your competitors." Kawasaki suggests doing what they can't do. Macintosh created a whole new curve, not a slightly better DOS computer. The telephone was not a slightly better telegraph, it was a whole new curve. Most organizations define their business on the curve they’re on. If you truly want to be innovative, it’s not about doing things 10 percent better – jump the curve to do something 10 times different and better!
  4. Roll the DICEE. All innovations share the following elements.
    Depth: Create great products and services that are revolutionary
    Intelligent: Someone has anticipated what’s necessary
    Complete: Not just the leather and steel and glass of the car – it’s the totality of the experience, it’s the Lexus experience.
    Elegance: The beauty of the industrial design.
    Emotive: Generate strong emotions – people love what you do or hate what you do, but they are certainly not indifferent. The worst case is that people don’t care about what you do.
  5. Don’t worry, be crappy (which Kawasaki readily admits is a blatant rip off of the Bobby McFerrin song). If you wait for perfection, you’ll never be ready to act. Act first, improve later. Too many organizations and people have analysis paralysis which costs us time, money, creativity, and market share, all of which lead to a death trap.
  6. Polarize people (emotiveness). Many organizations try to be all things to all people, which inevitably produces mediocrity. Don’t try to anger people, but do not hesitate to alienate a group that you can do without.
  7. Let 100 flowers blossom ("stolen from Chairman Mao"). For example, Apple's original goal wasn't to spark a new desktop publishing industry, but it did encourage many software companies to write programs for the Mac. Apple Computer would have died if the Aldus Corporation hadn't developed PageMaker for the Mac in 1985 – thus expanding the Mac beyond a simple word processor or spreadsheet tool.
  8. Churn, baby, churn (yes, another song rip off – thank you to the Trammps!). To be an innovator, you need to be in denial. Ignore the bozos who keep telling you it cannot be done. Then listen to customers to see how to fix your product. Fix it, ship it, listen. Then, start again: fix it, ship it, listen. It is a never-ending process.
  9. Niche thyself. You want high uniqueness and high value. If you’re a great value but not unique, then you always have to compete on price (i.e., Dell Computer). If you’re only unique without value, you’re just a clown – you own a market that doesn’t exist. If your product/service is neither unique nor valuable, quit! You want to produce something that is unique and of great value to the customer, like the Smart car, which can park perpendicular to the curb, among other things. Determine what is unique about youand make sure your uniqueness is of value.
  10. Follow the 10-20-30 rule. Create a maximum of 10 slides in a PowerPoint presentation; deliver it in 20 minutes; the optimal size font is 30 points.
  11. Don’t let the bozos grind you down. Rich and famous parses to “lucky” not necessarily smart. "If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at who he gives it to." So watch for Bozosity. Take a shot of Bozosity to inoculate yourself against it.
So, now you have the list. What to do with it? How to use it? My suggestion is to sit down in a quiet environment. Close the door, or better, go to a new place where you can be free of all distractions and have a serious one-on-one conversation with yourself. Ask: what is keeping me from believing or embracing this suggestion? Where am I on a scale of believing this and how can I influence a stronger understanding of this concept? In other words, take a serious inventory of where you are and what you need to do to move forword. Why? Remember: Innovate or die. That applies to us as organizations and us as individuals in organizations.

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