Thursday, July 9, 2009

Jump curves (or am I late to the party again?)

Something that Guy Kawasaki has been espousing for a long time (since 2006 I think) is that innovating is harder than just staying a little bit ahead of competitors on the same curve. "If you're a daisy-wheel printer company, the goal is not to introduce Helvetica in another point size. The goal is to jump to laser printer."

That's easier in some businesses than others. Kawasaki noted how in the days before refrigeration, the ice industry consisted of ice harvesters in cold climates using horses, sleighs and saws to collect ice outdoors during winter months. Ten million pounds of ice were shipped in 1900 that way. Then came "Ice 2.0" -- factories that could freeze ice anywhere and an ice man who would deliver it to establishments and homes. Finally came "Ice 3.0": home refrigerators.

Of course, none of the ice harvesters got into the ice factory business, and none of the factories got into the refrigerator business. That's because "most organizations define themselves in terms of what they do," Guy notes, "instead of thinking - what benefit do we provide the customer?"

Guy suggests that true innovation comes when you jump curves, not when you duke it out for 10%. Good advice I think. Here's a nice cut of Guy's popular "Art of Innovation" presentation from Cisco Live 2009 that makes it possible to enjoy all of his key points in eight minutes.