10 completely useless innovation tips

We’ve all been there.  Listening to a speaker, reading an article, sitting at the feet of an innovation expert.  They seem smart.  They’re charming… likeable in fact.  Some are venture capitalists, others are executives, consultants, authors or professors with impressive pedigree.  They begin to share their wisdom; give advice.  They hand you the keys to the kingdom of knowledge.  Sometimes they’re insightful… but other times they’re hacks.  If you enjoy vapid platitudes as much as I do, here are top 10 useless tips on innovation:

1. Put together the right team

Without this chestnut I would have run out and deliberately picked the first “wrong” team I could find.  Whew… I really dodged a bullet there…

2. Have persistence

… and all this time I thought quitting was the key. I stand corrected.

3. Cultivate an entrepreneurial culture

Can’t argue my way out of this steel trap.  So… when trying to be entrepreneurial… be entrepreneurial.  Makes sense when I look at it that way.

4. Create a compelling value proposition

I guess that kills my idea for a foot cream that actually gives you athlete’s foot.  Dang!

5. Have the right timing

How counterintuitive.

6. Understand the customer

Can’t we just pretend they’re cuddly Mogwai that turn into Gremlins if we feed them after midnight?

7. Target a rapidly growing market or one where you can deliver growth

Isn’t it easier to grow a company when there isn’t any growth in the market or the business itself?  That’s probably really deep if you think about it…

8. Confront reality 

Sounds good “on paper,” but in the real world I much prefer to ignore the real world.

9. Have great focus

I’m sorry, what were we talking about?  I was trying to figure out why the yellow angry birds are so good at breaking wood but so useless with glass.  Is wood harder than glass?  Depends on how thick it is… basketball backboards are made of really thick glass.  I wonder if it’s possible to make a coffee table out of one?

10. Take calculated risks

Thanks for being so specific.  

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Sophie

    Ooh ooh, I have one ; “Innovation is about harnessing creativity”

    or the king of all empty phrases “think outside the box”

  2. Brock

    Very funny, but also violates several of the 10 tips. It’s tempting to answer each “useless tip” with a “Then why did so-and-so do such-and-such?” Sometimes the answer is that “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time” and sometimes it’s “extenuating circumstances” and sometimes it’s just “greed, power, and politics.” I trust Thomas’ point is that choices are not always so obvious and the “how to” is where top executives and consultants earn their money for each of the points Thomas makes. My laughter has subsided to a chuckle.

  3. Adnan

    My favorite is “stay open to new ideas” Duh!

    Great post, made me smile!

  4. Charlie Levenson

    I would argue that #2 is not as useless as you think, DEPENDING ON WHAT YOU MEAN BY “VISIONARY”.

    So many leaders in business today have a vision that doesn’t go much past the current 3-month cycle and the bottom line for THAT cycle, without any regard at all for the LONG TERM issues. They are interested in maximizing short-term profits so they can make their bonuses and cash out their stock options without any sensitivity or concern for the life-cycle of the company itself, since they are planning on being gone in 3-5 years anyway.

    Being able to see past THIS quarter’s profits/losses (or even this YEAR’S) and to understand the potential of markets and products that have NOT yet matured is what I consider “visionary,” and there are a lot of MBA CEO’s that do NOT have this skill.

  5. Jessie

    I like Charlie’s point, but I think he’s also making Thomas’s point which is nobody defines what is or isn’t “visionary” or can even agree on it. One man’s vision is another man’s fools errand.

  6. Jed Armstrong

    How about “be persistent”? As opposed to quitting right away

  7. Penelope Clayton-Smith

    Find a niche and fill it….still a pearl of wisdom…it’s just finding that niche!

  8. David P.

    I’ll start with confession–several of those books rest on my bookshelf. And I read them enthusiastically. But running with Thomas’ not so subtle point begs a question for me, “Why do we find these truisms so intoxicating?” I’ll list a couple possible answers but would enjoy hearing more:

    – Ambiguity is easier to swallow. And easier to use as defense when efforts fail.
    – We want something easy to hang our hope on. Innovation is, quite frankly, really really hard. Oversimplified answers help the medicine go down.
    – Often we really don’t want to go through the process of real, difficult change in order to achieve innovation. We want to tweak. Everything on that list offers safe ways to ‘tweak’ without getting into too much trouble.

    Thoughts? Additions?

  9. Mike B.

    Lots see the same things, make the same observations, then think they’re the first ones to notice. That’s why these obvious tips keep persisting. I also agree ambiguity is easier to swallow because people prefer to keep things vague or don’t know enough to be specific

  10. Peter Gaunt

    Great post, but…we can all do this…
    DISRUPTIVE INNOVATION – If you want to start up a new business with growth potential do something nobody else is doing for customers the big boys are ignoring.

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