Innovation Without Foundation: The 7 Deadly Sins
Big ideas are great, but executing them takes a little more than just the proverbial light bulb. Innovation without foundation is a little bit like riding a bike without wheels, or any number of metaphors surrounding vehicles without engines — although the basic structure is there, ideas can’t move forward without support, mobility, and fuel.
Below are the 7 deadly sins that most companies commit when trying to carry big ideas from genesis to fruition without doing the proper groundwork or building a strong infrastructure, and how you can keep from indulging.
The Passionate Mistake (Lust)
There’s nothing wrong with having fervor for the job you do, or the company you work for — in fact, it’s sadly less common than working as a habit, necessity, or means to an end. But passionate people do tend to get very excited when they’re inspired, and sometimes change from super-charged motivators to impatient, mad-dashing-to-the-finish-line instigators.
An all-consuming rush rarely works out well for projects, and unless you’re a tabloid reporter, it’s not better to be first than to be accurate. Embrace passion and give it plenty of room to inspire creativity, but put checks in place to rein in your more whimsical employees when they start to push too hard or shoot for the impractical.
Too Much of a Good Thing (Gluttony)
You know those people who come up with something unique and wonderful, only to ruin it by adding too many features, extras, functions, or complexities? Companies do that, too, and that’s what I call innovation gluttony. They’ll hire smart people, gain access to veritable wellsprings of new ideas, but without direction, will turn any product into a Swiss Army Knife. This might work if you’re building the world’s next great smartphone, but often means timeline delays and negative impacts on resources — especially if the add-ons happen as the project unfolds.
When your team envisions a new solution or invention, make sure the end-goals are clear and you’re not including features for aesthetics alone.
Money-Saving and Money-Grubbing: Not Mutually Exclusive (Greed)
This one’s short and sweet: you get what you pay for. Companies that aren’t willing to invest in innovation can’t expect to maintain competitive advantage, since they’re reluctant to bankroll their own growth. It’s one thing to look for solutions that bring about the greatest advantage at the lowest cost; it’s quite another to focus so obsessively on the bottom line that you sabotage your own opportunities.
Had a Good Idea, But That Was It (Sloth)
Ideas aren’t enough on their own. Take a startup like TaskRabbit, for example, a service that pairs regular people who want to make a little extra cash with other regular people who need help with errands. Great idea, but if they’d just started letting people trade time, set prices, or assign tasks at random, they wouldn’t have a profitable business — they’d have a hot mess riddled with legal risks, or at best, an uncontrollable under-the-table bazaar. Sometimes companies think that the sheer originality of their product or service will be enough to drive business, but in today’s ultra-competitive market, an idea is really only as good as its sustainability.
Copycat Killers and the Inundated Marketplace (Envy)
It’s so, so hard to rise above the fray these days. Companies either have to find an unconquered segment to explore, or they have to beat the other 200+ companies pitching similar wares to the punch. Even if they manage that, there will still be a very long line of competitors right behind, itching to overtake them, exploit them, undercut their prices, trip them up, or capitalize on their service model with enough subtle tweaks to make it legal.
This causes impacted industries, price wars, and black market sales — all things that are unlikely to go away, but that can be alleviated by companies focusing on being truly innovative pioneers, instead of unoriginal pirates. After all, drawing an adorable robot on the back of a Kindle doesn’t make it an Android.
Anything You Can Do We Can Do Better. So There. (Wrath)
Business wrath isn’t a great deal different than innovation mimicry, but it takes on more of a smear campaign-esque attitude. Instead of succeeding by design, companies will sometimes single out and attack their biggest competitor, whether or not they’re directly comparable (are you a Mac, a PC, or not sure why your ironic trucker cap makes you the scorn of all Windows users?).
Competition is what keeps invention alive, but walking the line between actually improving upon methods and features versus undermining them in the hopes that no one will notice your weaknesses is an art that many companies haven’t quite mastered.
We Are the Untouchable (Pride)
Much like coming up with great ideas isn’t enough, innovating a single solution is unlikely to keep your company afloat past the initial bell curve. A constantly evolving world requires routinely improved solutions and services, expanded technology, faster functionality, and malleable business models.
Imagine if Apple had produced the 1976 Apple I Personal Computer Kit and called it quits.
Even when a business boldly bears the weight of singularity, successfully translates passion into product, stays true to simplicity, spends wisely, outlines intelligently and traverses the mob, their quest isn’t over. Unless you invented the paperclip, which is apparently so flawlessly architected that no one’s even tried to improve upon it since its inception in 1899, stay alert — it’s neither acceptable nor savvy to send something to market without a system in place for feedback, adaptation, and above all, progress.