When I heard that there was an actual debate over whether or not Kim Kardashian was going to get a, “Star” on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, I about lost it. Why? Because we should all be alarmed at the “New Lows” our society is seeing when it comes to mediocrity! For crying out loud, we are making stars out of nobody’s…and have been for what seems like a long time.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the technology sector in America and abroad pushing innovation to New Highs…then I might really be worried. So let’s talk about this for a minute.
Innovation, as most people would agree, is significantly harder than creating neat ideas. The heart and soul of innovation, to me, lies first in the willingness to FAIL MISERABLY, over and over and over….while simultaneously sheltering your emotions with brute creativity and a, “Who gives a (enter your expletive here) attitude”! After all, has it ever been any different?
Those companies that are engaged in this behavior, as obvious at it should be, are doing fantastic things. Companies like Apple (of whom I admire) have brought their companies from the brink of failure in some cases, to the pinnacle of raging success. And they did this, NOT by listening to the public, but going for broke in a “Winner Take All” slug-fest for product and concept innovation. Can I get witness?
To elaborate a little further, I used to have this attitude that Steve Jobs was just an arrogant, get what he wants at any cost, type of guy. In years gone by, that really seemed to disturb me about Apple, and hence, I bought none of their products. It was only in recent years that I have come to a much different conclusion. And that is, “He was right all along”.
Just today in fact, I read an article in the Bloomberg News about Jobs and his new position at Apple, and something said once again really struck a nerve with me. Quoting Guy Kawasaki (former Apple Manager), “The worst case-scenario is Apple deciding it’s going to be a customer-driven company, and they start running focus groups and market research to determine what customers want.” And here is the most important line of all….”If anything, Steve has proven that customers CAN’T ARTICULATE WHAT THEY WANT!”
Right on the money!
And herein lies the key to innovation. If customers COULD articulate what they wanted, and with any degree of precision, would there be such a thing as innovation? I really doubt it!
Now as most people that follow Apple know, Job’s risky adventures, and willingness to tank the company on the rise or fall of an innovative idea…..has built one of the Most Successful and Profitable companies in the World! So was Job’s right……or wrong? You answer that for yourself!
Let me end with a quote from one of my favorite movies of all time, National Lampoon’s Vacation. I think this sums up my interpretation of what innovation is, and what the true cost really is.
It starts like this. Chevy Chase has just taken a wrong turn in the desert, and goes airborne some “fifty feet or better”. After wandering in the desert for a considerably long time, he finally makes it to the Only gas station/repair outpost within miles, and finds his family surprised to see him still alive. After getting cleaned up, and into new clothes, he approaches the mechanic and his helper (of whom asks Clark if he had manure for brains)….and asks, “So….how much do I owe you?” The soon to be revealed “Sheriff”, asks Clark, “How much you got?” Clark responds, “No…I’m asking how much the repairs are…” The mechanic asks again with a much more aggressive tone, “And I’m asking you how much you got!” Clark, dismayed, says “You’re out of your mind, look, I don’t have time to fool around so how much is it?” Pulling out a monkey wrench, and gazing ever so angrily into Clark’s eyes, the (sheriff) mechanic ends with….”ALL OF IT BOY!”
The true cost of innovation = ALL OF IT BOY!!
P.S. If this tie-in makes no sense at all, and you’re wondering which looney bin I escaped from, Steve Jobs told me to tell you, “We are just enthusiastic about what we do!”
Craig Workman – Software Developer | Old School BMX Aficionado