Are You Innovating or Trying to Build a Better Past? - GrowinBytes Ed. 103

Published by Linda Rolf on 4/3/2018 and updated 11/16/2021

Two of the biggest challenges mature companies face today are:

1) the acceptance that innovation is essential for remaining relevant and
2) how to become innovative.

There's comfort and even a certain smugness that comes with retelling the story of our company's heroic journey. After all, we've earned a moment of self-congratulation for making it this far. Just showing up every day committed to growing, leading and inspiring isn't easy. In fact, some days it feels downright impossible.

But here's the reality ---

Companies today will not survive and prosper by just nibbling on the fruits of the past.

Without intending to we can easily become constrained and cocooned by our past successes. We create perfect systems, sharpen our time-worn traditional processes and surround ourselves with the people that replicate the past. By refining the past, we convince ourselves that our future is guaranteed.

Bill Gates and the Tablet That Wasn't

Apple launched the first iPad in January 2010. Within twenty-eight days it had sold one million units. But did you know that like so many of Apple's innovative successes, Steve Jobs was not the first to see the possibilities for the tablet.

On November 11, 2001 --- 9 years before the iPad's game-changing introduction --- Bill Gates announced at Comdex "The PC took computing out of the back office and into everyone's office. That tablet takes cutting-edge PC technology and makes it available wherever you want it, which is why I'm already using a tablet as my everyday computer. It's a PC that is virtually without limits --- and within five years I predict it will be the most popular form of PC sold in America."

If the tablet was the revolutionary device of the future as Gates predicted, what happened at Microsoft?

According to former Microsoft vice president Dick Brass in The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, "Microsoft never developed a true system for innovation." In keeping with the culture of divide and control, competing teams within Microsoft routinely killed the innovations of their internal competitors. In the case of the doomed tablet, the Office team leader refused to adapt the Office application suite to work on the tablet. The tablet became a casualty of corporate culture opposed to fostering innovation.

However, the failure of the Microsoft tablet goes beyond just the internal jousting. The tablet's assumed purpose was fundamentally flawed, making its implementation clumsy and unpopular. This illustrates a core principle of innovation – a product or service must significantly improve the life of the customer.

GrowinByte 5

Is your company innovating or trying to build a better past?

List 5 significant deliverables that your company is committed to completing within the next 12 months. For each deliverable:

  • Describe how it will improve the life of your customer
  • You are the customer. How will you use your product or service?
  • Are you delivering a Microsoft tablet implemented without your customer's perspective or an iPad that adds undiscovered value to your customer's life?

  • Steve Jobs

    Meanwhile, over at Apple, the culture of innovation was alive and thriving, deeply woven into every facet of the organization.

    How did Apple achieve what Microsoft failed to deliver? Innovation is inspired and achieved by a visionary leader who creates, instills and leads one shared mindset. We all know, of course, that Steve Jobs was the passionate visionary who had the ability to create a "reality distortion field" where everything was possible.

    Where Microsoft created silos Apple created evangelists who followed the single shared vision with purpose.

    All of this might sound a little ethereal when in fact an innovative culture is built on a very real, clearly articulated vision. Unlike a mission statement which is wordy, lofty and rarely remembered, a vision is a clear picture of the value your product or service delivers.

    A vision statement is specific, concise and consistent. When Sergey Brin and Larry Page pitched Google to the investors at Sequoia Capital, their vision was impactful in its clarify --- "To provide access to the world's information in one click."

    GrowinByte 6

    Can you specifically, concisely and consistently state your company's vision?

    Does your vision inspire everyone in the organization to be engaged contributors?

    Are your vision and your committed deliverables in alignment?

    I hope you enjoyed your snack!

    GrowinBytes snack

    Linda Rolf is a lifelong curious learner who believes a knowledge-first approach builds valuable client relationships.

    She is fueled by discovering the unexpected connections among technology, data, information, people and process. For more than four decades, Linda and Quest Technology Group have been their clients' trusted advisor and strategic partner.

    Linda believes that lasting value and trust are created through continuously listening, sharing knowledge freely, and delivering more than their clients even know they need.

    As the CIO of their first startup client said, "The value that Quest brings to Cotton States is far greater than the software they develop."

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