Sunday, January 02, 2011

Why Innovative Ideas Die

Most people are influenced by compelling stories. But some business people confuse analytics and metrics for being the story. What I mean is that numbers only enhance the story. They are not the story themselves. However, many people, afraid to make a mistake, use numbers as their primary source for convincing others of untried ideas.

You see, analytics can only give us a picture of what may be going on within an experience. And they can help us understand how this picture has contributed to an effect in the past, and give us hints on how it may affect the future. But analytics can also give us a false sense of confidence about the unknown. Maybe deep down in all of us, we really don't want to admit we don't know something. So we hide behind words and numbers, to avoid appearing like we are risking a lot.

This is one reason why truly innovative ideas are so rare. So often we want something we know (or think we know) will work, make us money, or make us look good. We are willing to settle for what works, because it's so much safer. So, innovative ideas — by very nature — are born to die. Here are some breakdowns of why this is true.
  1. CEO's, designers, and leaders are interested in the bottom line, and are risk-adverse. Everyone wants to rule the world. But not everyone can be at the top. So, we are too afraid to rock the boat, thus losing the game. This is not the way to be innovative.

  2. There is often a failure to comprehend the entire picture. True, if we follow a certain tried and true approach, we will get results — like more people signing on to receive our newsletter. But are we truly providing something unique, that they can't get anywhere else.

  3. We fail to appreciate the intangibles like intuition, emotion, and experience. And in so doing, we fail to comprehend those things that truly make the difference between a ho-hum solution and something truly compelling.

  4. One monkey can destroy what many skilled people and time took to construct. It's always been easier to criticize innovative ideas than to take a risk.

  5. The fear of failure = fear of learning. We can't learn anything if failure is not built into the process.

  6. A designer or leader doesn't present something tangible. Something tangible can be anything you can hold and look at, such as a book, manuscript, mock-up, prototype, drawing, flowchart, wireframe, or even a detailed outline.

  7. The presenter or the client have poor communication skills. People who say, "I'll know it when I see it," present a truly difficult dilemma. The designer has nothing to go on, and neither does the client. So a lot of nothing's going on. On the other hand designers who use unexplained jargon, slang, or euphemisms aren't communicating to anybody but themselves. Miscommunication is one of the biggest reasons ideas get killed.

Everyone needs to do this better, because there are too many good ideas that don't make the light of day because of these roadblocks. Give innovation a chance. Let's not be so afraid of making mistakes. Rather, lets be people who value mistakes as a roadmap to innovation.

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