Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

Why deadlines impede innovation

It’s almost impossible to come up with really innovative things when you have a deadline and schedule.

It is no secret that constraints drive innovation. But what about deadlines? Deadlines, when managed well, can be a motivation–but when abused, can set you back. Here are a few things to consider before jumping on the “deadlines are imperative” bandwagon:

One question to help you innovate how you innovate

break out of your comfort zone to innovateHow do you innovate how you innovate? Easy, stop doing what worked before and start looking for insights outside the mainstream.


Because I haven’t found any, and conduct them myself, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a short guide on how to conduct outside industry benchmarks for innovation. Part of this process is to consistently step out of your domain and learn how others approach similar business challenges; a few years ago I wrote about my experience at Disney Animation Studios.

The point of benchmarking outside your industry is to overcome the human tendency of letting what we know limit what we can imagine; to look outside your domain for inspiration.

Customers don’t care if you’re innovative or not


Pop-Tarts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They don’t care about your business strategy, your marketing strategy, your supply chain, your approach to human resources; nothing.

They also don’t care about your latest innovation program. And, unless you’re Apple, they don’t care about your latest product extension. Seriously, they don’t.

A recent post on the Wall Street Journal has pretty much put it in perspective how executives are looking at innovation the wrong way: something that is innovative to them, not the customer.

Basically, the Wall Street Journal article shines a light on how diluted the definition of innovation has become. It’s become a marketing ploy. Before I addressed this here, a couple of bloggers beat me to it. Both addressed the mindlessness thinking that the article uses as an example. You should read both their posts (here and here).

Of course, innovation is a buzzword, this isn’t new. But seriously, the example they used in the article is common across many industries. The way companies want to innovate, or the reason they are investing in it, is because they are playing not to lose by out-featuring competitors.

Reactive mindset, not proactive.

When they act this way, they forget a very important principle about marketing: people don’t remember specific features, they remember the experience they had. Companies are confusing a product upgrade with innovation, and to believe that changing one thing is enough to make a splash is short-term-ism at its finest.

I love Pop-Tarts, but a different flavor of Pop-Tarts is not an innovation.

Is innovation really going to save the economy?

First of all, I’m not even sure what we want out of innovation. If we take what we see out there as a signal, then we sure aren’t innovating anything.

It’s gotten to that point where the word innovation is anything but meaningful. Were in the ‘over-innovation’ economy. Yes, over-innovation. As in, we’re over innovation. And this is because we are over-innovating? Or are we?

Alexis Madrigal makes a great point that we are indeed over-innovating:

Innovators innovate innovations, no? That word is everywhere these days. It’s a stand-in for: THAT THING THAT WILL SAVE THE ECONOMY FROM EVERLASTING DOOM. It’s seen as an unmitigated good.

At the same time, when you’re walking down a grocery store aisle staring at 40 brands of tortilla chips, you want to say, “Actually, maybe there’s been enough innovation in the corn chip industry. Time to move on guys. Barring the ability to innovate to the apotheosis of the tortilla chip, we have reached the pinnacle for this salty snack.” It’s times like that when you realize, there is such a thing as over-innovation.

Similarly, Just-Drinks columnist Richard Woodward makes a hilarious case for over-innovation in the spirits industry.

I call that insignificant innovation. Under-innovation.