This Week in Innovation – 23 February 2014

Low hanging fruit

These are the things that caught my attention this week.

First, this is from Hugh MacLeod’s Daily Newsletter – subscribing to it is worthwhile:

Low hanging fruitOften in corporate innovation efforts, everyone wants to go for the low-hanging fruit – the quick wins.  That’s fine, as far it goes.  However, often, there isn’t really that much low-hanging fruit.  And the reward comes from solving the tough problems.

Go after those first instead.

In The Strategic Mistake Almost Everybody Makes, Scott Anthony attacks another common innovation mistake: ditching innovation to focus on your core.  This seems smart over the short-run, but it’s disastrous across longer time-scales.  Here is one of the key quotes:

Every business and business model has a finite life. Products come and go. Customer preferences change. As Rita Gunther McGrath notes, competitive advantage is increasingly a transient notion. The companies that last over long periods of time do so by creating new products, services, and business models to replace yesterday’s powerhouses.

In the rest of the post, Anthony talks about how to address this issue.

Jane Porter tackles a front-end innovation problem in 5 Ways We Neglect Our Own Creativity – And How to Bring it Back.  Work worth doing is hard – that’s why the low-hanging fruit isn’t the best option.  Porter discusses a few good ideas for making it easier to do the hard work.

The first three posts really get at a core innovation issue: getting better at is a process, and it takes time.  That’s also the key message in Neil Perkin’s excellent post Change is a Process, Not an Event.  He makes the point by telling the story of one of his failed change efforts.  It’s important to envision any big change as a process, and that is especially true for innovation.

Michelle Atagana profiles 14 Really Cool African Tech Startups to Watch in 2014 that are in the process of innovating.  We often don’t pay enough attention to the great innovation taking place in other parts of the world.  These firms are tackling problems that are often local, but which could have global impact.  For example, check out BRCK:

Imagine you could take your internet everywhere with you? Even areas with no connectivity? Yes, that is what BRCK is solving Africa’s connectivity issues. The creators of BRCK describe the product as “the easiest, most reliable way to connect to the internet, anywhere in the world, even when you don’t have electricity.” Think it as a rugged router that can hop from network to network seeking out whatever signal it can find to connect to the net.

That’s pretty cool.

If we’re tackling tough problems, there are tools that can help us.  J.P. Rangiswami wrote a great post about the role computers play in our world: But They Are Useless. They Can Only Give You Answers.  He talks about a teacher that said “From now on, you will earn my respect, not by the answers you give, but by the questions you ask.” And then he thinks about how we can use computers to handle boring tasks, so that we can put our time and effort into asking better questions.

Finally, my favourite post of the week was probably 28 Books You Should Read If You Want To by Janet Potter.  The post is both hilarious and wise.  Her premise is that lists of books that we *should* read don’t really do us much good.  Instead, she offers a useful alternative list of books that you should check out – closing with:

“You should just keep reading.”

Yes, we should.  I will, and I’ll report back next week on what grabs my attention between now and then.  In the meantime, check out Potter’s list, and the other great posts here.




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Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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