There are three forces needed for innovation to happen: ability, infrastructure and market. When all three exist you have an industry. Creating a new industry is a long-term challenge, which many people and organizations will not take on. When starting out, every startup is in a race to create find product-market fit. It’s not about being first to market, it’s about getting the business model right.
Innovation is hard, it takes time for new ideas to get adopted. Most of what you see out in the market is incremental improvements on what already exists. But truly new to the world breakthroughs are rare, the reason is most people and organizations are afraid of being first.
Challenges increase if you’re a B2B startup, because you have to find a way in, and these companies are short-term focused; not an ideal scenario for startups. Startups need to move fast and make progress; the opposite of established companies they’re selling to. So, following my last post I’ll elaborate more on this topic, specifically how do you avoid knocking on the wrong doors and putting up with internal politics and other bullshit?
There are no straight answers, my way is to look at a person or company’s habits. For example, it’s easy to be understood if a company has a history of consistent innovation. Things change radically when you approach organizations that don’t have a history of innovation.
With that said, look for early adapters; not adopters. Innovators are the early adapters, and have very specific traits. Adopting new technology isn’t simply a matter of going to conferences and workshops, but of bringing it into the organization; it’s about intensity of use. Keeping up with technology requires experimentation, you won’t know until you try; most organizations are happy doing the same thing over and over.
7 traits of early adapters
Early adapters in the B2B space have the following traits:
- Visionary leadership. A critical measure of innovation is leadership and priorities; no leadership means no innovation. Leadership matters because leaders believe the present needs improvement, and they don’t wait for others to do something about it.
- Operate with a sense of urgency. Innovators operate by a play to win mindset, and understand that the best time to start was yesterday.
- Have a wide perspective. People and organizations that shy away from ideas and perspectives that challenge them are not early adapters.
- Have a track record for constant improvement. These types of organizations are focused on them, not others. They move to the rhythm of their own drum, and not following others.
- Are collaborators. Organizations that embrace the future don’t close themselves off from external ideas; doing so means death. They happily embrace bringing in outsiders because it means their perspective is amplified, and learn something new.
- Manage for today, lead for tomorrow. Companies that are led by a balance of short and long-term priorities know what they know, what they don’t know and what they don’t know that they don’t know; it is this last part which they will be curious about.
- Experiment. Yes, they understand that experimentation is the shortest path to innovation.
If the above is familiar to you, it’s because it comes down to culture. Yes, cultures of innovation are forward-looking, not afraid to make mistakes and operate with a sense of urgency.
How do you overcome the early adopter challenge?
Innovation is about getting people to embrace new habits. This reason alone is why true innovation is hard; habits die-hard. With that said, look for organizations that have innovation driving habits. Avoid certainty cravers, you won’t get much done here.