How do you get innovation off the ground and really working in your organisation? Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist of Canva, shared his working life experience in innovation as an early employee of Apple at the Gartner Symposium on the Gold Coast.
Here are his steps for making innovation work:
1. Make meaning
Don’t be lured into the false dream of innovation meaning big bucks. Do it to make meaning or to change the world in some way, and that should be your main driver behind innovation, said Kawasaki.
“I would make a case that if you make meaning, you will also probably make money. But if you focus on simply making money, you will probably not succeed. And you will probably not succeed because you’ll attract the wrong kinds of people.”
He gave some examples of successful, wealthy companies that have highly disrupted the world in some way through meaningful drivers. Google, Apple and eBay are companies that have all democratised their business and have broken down huge barriers to accessing information, computers and commerce, he said.
Because of Google, information is not limited to a select group of people, as everybody has access to knowledge being created every day. Apple’s computers weren’t just for the exclusive large companies and universities. And with eBay, now you don’t have to be a giant retailer to successfully reach a wide consumer audience to sell your stuff, as anybody can do this online, he said.
2. Make a mantra
A mantra is a two- or three-word explanation of why your innovation (product, service, company) should exist.
Kawasaki said mission statements don’t always resonate with everyone in the business, can be over the top and don’t always articulate the ‘meaning’ or how you want to change the world.
“I’m going to read to you a classic American mission statement: ‘The mission of Wendy’s is to deliver superior quality products and services for our customers and communities through leadership, innovation, and partnerships’.
“In all those times, eating cheese burgers, french fries and drinking cokes, it had never occurred to me that what I’m participating in as a customer of Wendy’s is leadership, innovation and partnerships. Forgive me, I thought I was just eating a cheese burger, french fries and coke. I don’t think most Wendy’s employees could repeat this mission statement,” he said.
Kawasaki said many times in the US he has seen a company hire out a high end hotel (which always seems to come with a golf course) for its business leaders to work together over a couple days on crafting a mission statement.
“We form cross functional teams with employees who cannot stand [each other] – you climb ropes together, you close your eyes and hold out your arms and fall back into your team mate’s hands … kumbaya.
"The next day, having now become best friends with people you couldn’t stand 24 hours earlier, you go to a small room where there’s a whiteboard and a magic marker pen and you craft your mission statement with the meeting facilitator, whose name is Moonbeam.”
Don’t do that, he said. What’s a more productive use of time is coming up with a mantra that is easy for everyone to remember and sets the tone of the meaning.
“The company is Wendy’s, and the mantra should be ‘healthy fast food’. And in America, when you absolutely, positively want something at some place, you use FedEx. ‘Peace of mind’.”
3. Jump to the next curve
“I learnt from Steve Jobs true innovation occurs when you jump to the next curve, not when you stand at the same curve,” said Kawasaki.
Back in '80s, when Kawasaki was working for Apple, people wanted it to progress to a “bigger, faster, cheaper Apple 2”. Instead of focusing all of its it’s time on Apple 2, the company created Macintosh, which in its time had “an ocean of RAM” at 128K.
Most companies define themselves in terms of what they already do, which is an inhibitor to innovation or jumping to the next curve, he said. For example, ice harvesters didn’t invent the ice factories, and ice factory businesses didn’t invent the refrigerator, even though they are probably the best in the business to invent the fridge, he said.
“So if you define yourself as ‘we’re in the ice harvesting business’, you will not see the light of the ice factory business. And if you define yourself as the ice factory business, you will not see the light of the refrigerator occur.
“If you really want to get to the next curve, you have to jump to it. You can’t evolve the current curve, jump to the next curve,” he said.
4. Roll the DICEE
Any innovation needs to address a need and understand the pain points in people’s lives to make it compelling enough for people to value it. Make it 'deep, intelligent, complete, empowering and engaging' (DICEE), Kawasaki said.
One example Kawasaki used is MyKey. Having bought a Mustang to help him get through his mid-life crisis, he said, one of his biggest concerns when he travels is that his two in-experienced driver sons (ages 19 and 21) will get their hands on the car and have some tragic accident. MyKey allows him to program into the key the speed limit the car can drive when it is initiated in the car.
The completeness of a product or service also needs to be considered. People need to know you haven’t left anything out; that you have thought of everything, making it compelling.
“As a self-published author, let me tell you about the completeness of Amazon, for example. You write your book in word, you upload it and eight hours later it’s for sale. You have the cover. You get 70 per cent royalty, not 15 per cent.
“If you want to make an Audible version of your book - they [Amazon] own Audible - you write a description of your book, you put it out into the marketplace and the people who are professional voice actors respond. You set up auditions and listen to them, then you pick one of the voices.”
5. Don’t worry, be crappy
Don’t miss the boat by trying to perfect your product or service, just get it out to market and continuously improve on it.
The Macintosh in the '80s was an advanced computer for its time, but there were so many “crappy elements to it," Kawasaki said.
“It was $2500, no software, small floppy, no hard disk to start. It came with a laser printer that was $10k, and it printed one sided. What a piece of crap, but it was a revolutionary piece of crap.
"When you have jumped curves, it is okay to ship with bugs and shortcomings. I’m not saying you should ship crap. I’m saying you should ship revolutionary products and services with elements of crap to it."
He added that people working in the biotech business should probably not follow this advice.
6. Let 100 flowers blossom
The application that you build your product or service for might not have the same application in the real world.
That’s okay, Kawasaki said, just roll with it. “Sometimes the ‘wrong’ people buy your product and service and they use it in the ‘wrong’ way.”
He gave an example of Avon cosmetics making products that are supposed to make skin “so soft”, but instead parents were using it as insect repellent for their children.
“What do you do? Do you start telling people ‘no, this is cosmetics…this is not about preventing mosquitos from biting your precious little jewels’. Avon are now making skin so soft product line extensions, all kinds of stuff, to prevent insect bites.
“You should be so lucky that your product or service is embraced and adopted in any way. Don’t be proud, let 100 flowers blossom.”
7. Polarise people
“When you create a great product or service, you will polarise people. Some people love what you do, some people will hate what you do. It’s okay,” Kawasaki said.
TiVo is an example that drives TV marketers crazy, he said. One day of the year in the US, Superbowl Sunday, is the only day he watches advertisements. For the 364 other days of the year, he skips right through them.
“That polarises agencies and large brands, because they are spending billions of dollars making ads. And guess what, people like me never see the ad.
“This should not be your marketing plan – piss people off. But the consequence of great innovation is polarisation. Don’t be afraid of polarising people, great things polarise people.”
Uber is another example of a company polarising people in the taxi industry and governments, as it is seen as a competitive threat.
8. Churn, baby, churn
Incremental changes are key, Kawasaki said, as once you release your product or service, you need to be prepared to go through many versions or changes based on customer feedback.
But before that, you need to ignore advice, he said. “Many people are going to tell you ‘you can’t do it, it shouldn’t be done, it won’t be necessary’. So you need to ignore those people, because if you listen to them, you won’t try it and you’ll never know.
“Customer feedback is great for helping you evolve something, but to revolutionise something people can only describe what they want in terms of what they already know.”
9. Valuable and unique
Don’t forget you can just be valuable, but then you have to fight in the market on price alone. And if you are just unique, it’ll be hard convincing any customers to spend any money on you.
Kawasaki pointed to Pets.com, first establishing potential to reach a mass market selling pet food online but not thinking carefully about how its business model offers more value than the traditional one.
“Here’s a taste of what it’s like to be an investor in Silicon Valley. There are 300 million Americans, one in four owns a dog, so 75 million dogs. Each dog eats two cans of dog food per day. That’s 150 million cans of dog food a day. Totally addressable market.
“And we are not talking about 240 days a year or business days only. This is B2C or more accurately B2D (dog). Every day of the year, dogs need to eat.
“We think it cannot be hard to get a mere 1 per cent of this total addressable market. This translates into 1.5 million cans of dog food per day. Let’s say we sell each can for $1 – that’s $1.5 million per day times 365.
“So now let’s look at inefficiencies in this supply chain. One inefficiency is obviously the retail. Why do people have to get into their cars and drive to the store to buy cans of dead cow? So let’s remove the retailer, and we can discount 20 per cent by doing this.”
However, one flaw to the pitch Kawasaki pointed out is the dog food is just being shifted to a warehouse, which means cost in delivering to people's homes. This means no savings can be passed on.
“And it’s less convenient because you have to be at home when [the delivery company] drops off the dead cow at your house. That’s why it was not unique and not valuable,” he added.
10. Perfect your pitch
One tip from Kawasaki that could make your pitch stand out is to get personal.
A little bit of innocuous cyber stalking on social media networks to gain information on your potential client’s interests and passions can go a long way, he said.
“I love to use pictures. This is a picture of a LG washer and dryer. I was speaking to the management of LG and thought ‘you know Guy, you’d be so clever if you’d taken a picture of your washer and dryer. That way you could start off the speech to say ‘LG, I’m one of yours’.
“When I was in Russia, speaking at a conference, I opened up with this picture [ of cannon balls]. My opening remark was ‘I had no idea you Russians, you really have big balls’," he joked.
When it comes to using PowerPoint, Kawasaki said a good rule of thumb is keep your presentation to 10 slides, 20 minutes of talking, and 30 point font size so an audience over the age of 20 can read the text.
Also, whatever you do, do not lose interest in your audience by reading any part of your slides word to word, he added.
11. Don’t let the bozos drag you down
Kawasaki has built up his immunity to ‘bozos’ over the years. He said there will be many times you’ll come across bozos or people who are clueless and turn down an idea without trying to investigate or understand it first.
The dangerous bozo is the one to particularly watch out for, he said. “The dangerous bozo is the winner bozo. A winner bozo dresses in all black, owns stuff that ends in ‘i’ like Lamborghini, etc. This winner bozo is rich, famous, powerful, visible, has lots of followers on social media. And you’re tempted to think all this equals smart. I think 50 per cent of the time it’s lucky, not smart.”
He said when a bozo tries to instantly turn down your idea, come back at him or her with examples of foolish, short-sightedness mistakes well-known technologists have made in the past.
For example, Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, in 1977 said: “There’s no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home.”
“This is dangerous bozosity. Ken Olsen was such a great entrepreneur, such a great innovator. But he was so successful on the [current] curve, he would not embrace and accept the next curve,” Kawasaki said.
Kawasaki also had his moments in being a bozo. About 15 years ago, he passed up an opportunity to go for the CEO position of Yahoo because he didn’t quite understand the business, it didn’t jump out at him right away. He also had a small child and a baby on the way, so the long commute to the office wasn’t appealing to him.
It was a hard lesson learned, but a valuable one. “I could have been the first CEO of Yahoo. It’s in some difficult times now, but [back then] it was at the start of Yahoo," he said.
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