Most Common Innovation Myths

 Below are 2 most common myths about innovation:

Innovation Can Be Marketed Non-Linearly

Just as innovation cannot be sparked linearly, it needs to be translated into a quantifiable value before it can be marketed. While the idea behind it may have great beauty as an example of creative and artistic expression, the sold product has to have value as a solution to a problem. The best example of this type of failure is Nintendo’s ill-fated Virtual Boy game console.

An undoubtedly very cool idea, the system used a headset with dual screens to create a parallax effect, allowing the player to see a three-dimensional representation of a game world. Unfortunately, other than the achievement of this effect, the system had very few benefits. It rendered all environments in garish red-scale at a time when lush color was the standard. It also boasted a tiny offering of 8 games, none of which were very interesting to play in comparison to what was currently on the market. What the creators and marketers failed to account for was that the ability to play in 3D was not a problem gamers wanted solved. Playing the Virtual Boy required gamers to sacrifice everything they considered fun about games for the dubious benefit of experiencing a rudimentary 3D effect.

Unsurprisingly, the console sold miserably and its creator was summarily fired.

Fast-forward to the present, in which Nintendo has found success with a similar product, the 3DS. This offers all of the advantages of a standard game system— engaging titles, full color display, backward compatibility— with the added value of a 3D display. The difference is that instead of showcasing the added value as the primary draw, it is presented as a bonus.

Consumers don’t feel like they have to trade one value for another, but can have their cake and eat it too. Innovation should always feed into an established need of customers and augment, in some way, their experience from what has been previously offered.

Solving Problems and Thinking about Problems Is the Same Thing

A huge problem many companies have in sparking innovation is their over-emphasis of the “spitballing” process. They treat ideas as some kind of uniform currency; the more of them the better. Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about the solution.”

These are wise words. It takes a lot more effort and energy to diagnose and isolate a problem than it does to come up with a method of fixing it. Spending time solving the wrong problems will likely lead to additional problems, as well as leaving the real issues unresolved. To avoid flailing around blindly, think of innovation as a three-step process, in which the second step is the most important:

  • First, determine the general outcome that you want to achieve. This should be very broad, and can be anything from opening up new markets to improving sales figures— 5% of total time spent.

  • Next, isolate the problem or problems that stand between you and the achievement of that outcome. This should be an intense brainstorming session in which the entire structure of the problem is painstakingly outlined— 90% of total time spent.

  • Finally, plan and initiate a solution that follows the path of least resistance in solving the problem you’ve defined, in order to achieve the desired outcome. If you’ve gotten a good handle on the problem, this step should become intuitive, sometimes almost obvious. This is where the magic and serendipity of innovative thinking happens, only as a result of hard thinking beforehand— 5% of total time spent.

This process is known as Systematic Innovation and has been pioneered by Darrell Mann of Blackswan Consulting. Know more about the various myths related to innovation only at the University Canada West, one of the best universities in Canada, offering various business and management related programs.


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