Why Your Business  Needs More Weird Ideas— Part 1

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Most entrepreneurs don’t innovate at all.

They simply duplicate an existing business model.

That’s why there are so many kebab restaurants near you that are almost completely indistinguishable, had it not been for the founder that managed to muster up that tiny bit of creativity to at least think of a (slightly) different name.

So now you have The Kebab Company and The Kebab Business…

Innovation means taking an idea and turning it into a solution that adds user happiness (according to your users, not you).

Steward Butterfield of Slack and Flickr said:

‘’ Just as much as our job is to build something genuinely useful, something which really does make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant and more productive, our job is also to understand what people think they want and then translate the value of Slack into their terms.’’ *1

Notice how he points out that building something useful isn’t sufficient. You also need to understand what people think they want and use that understanding to make them want your product.

A combination of what I call technological economic value creation and psychological economic value creation.

Now, there are 2 main ways you can innovate.

Disruptive Innovation: Where you create a new way of doing things that fundamentally changes the way a market operates.

Or,

Incremental Innovation: Where you have a series of small, incremental improvements to existing products or processes in order to improve efficiency.

Out of the small subset of companies that innovate, it’s exclusively, with little exception, the second kind.

That’s a domain where you have all the facts and can form a hypothesis with a neat little bow around it.

An area that lends itself perfectly to our employees, raised in a culture where traditional education gives you perfect problems that have a single, perfect and objective answer.

No messiness.

The supermarket needs to be stocked. What’s the most efficient way to do this in order to reduce cost by saving fuel and time?

We need to cut packaging out of this sheet of metal. What’s the most efficient way to do that in order to waste the least amount of metal?

We need to increase the conversion of our landing page. Does a bright red or a dark green button convert better?

All examples of I.I.

This would probably suffice in a world that’s perfectly logical, built for machines.

But that’s not planet Earth.

We deal with humans. Humans with emotions. Humans that behave irrationally. 

Humans that make illogical decisions which they post-facto justify by rationalization.

So you end up never testing things that seem illogical but might actually translate into massive user happiness.

(There’s also the limitation of resources. Your resources are finite. So you can’t A/B test your way to disruptive innovation because you can’t explore all possibilities.)

Which is why creativity becomes much more important.

Now for a long time creatives have been looked down upon because it’s illogical and intangible (or at least harder to quantify).

You will never get fired for an unoriginal but logical idea that fails (and had a high chance of failure).

You will, however, get fired for having the courage and willingness to try weird things.

Why? Because when it fails, everyone is suddenly an expert due to hindsight bias.

(Tangentially, in a study about how to communicate ideas about physics, they learned that when you present people with correct information right away, they believe they knew it all along. However, if you ask them to give you the answer first and they invariably give the wrong answer, then when you correct them they’re much more likely to retain the right answer.) *2

So my thesis is that there’s a huge pocket of untapped potential in the way we innovate and we’ll see more of this kind the coming decade.

I’ll discuss how that change might look and how you can implement this thesis into your company tomorrow in Part 2.


References:

  1. Butterfield, S. (2014, February 17). We Don’t Sell Saddles Here. Retrieved from: https://medium.com/@stewart/we-dont-sell-saddles-here-4c59524d650d

  2. Muller, D. (2018). Designing Effective Multimedia for Physics Education. Retrieved from: http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/super/theses/PhD%28Muller%29.pdf p9.

RJ Youngling