Friday, June 10th, 2011
I attended the GlobalLogic Innovate! conference on Tuesday and Wednesday in Palo Alto. We work with a development team from GlobalLogic (formerly Cubika) in Argentina. Although some of the sessions were geared towards a more corporate audience and were a bit dry (imho), some of the other sessions had some interesting perspectives on innovation that directly applied to Fluid. Some highlights:
Sal Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy, talked about how the Khan Academy came into existence and now thrives. The Khan Academy is turning the educational system on its ear by allowing students to master material independently at home, and better leverage teachers time at school to help struggling students and to synthesize the basic materials into more interesting projects. (Of course it also works great for independent study without any classroom time at all.)
The Khan Academy uses YouTube for instructional videos, offers online tests, and organizes all the materials. It also provides a dashboard for teachers or parents to oversee the work of their students. There is nothing especially trailblazing in the technology. They offer valuable content (the courses) in a way that scales well on the internet. Sal saw and addressed an immediate (and initially fairly modest) need, which grew incrementally based on concrete needs. And the result is a revolutionary fix for a problem as daunting as our befuddled educational system.
Geoff Moore is a venture capitalist and old school high tech Silicon Valley guru.
We need discipline around innovation. It is not inherently good. One must consider the return on the investment in innovation. We should focus on the key “moments of engagement” in your business (such as the initial impression of a PDP, for example). There are 3 goals of innovation:
- Differentiation: Break new ground. Must be ambitious.
- Neutralization: Keep up with your competitors (Microsoft is the master of this). Must be fast.
- Productivity: Save money. This equates to “best in class”, which is not terribly sexy but can be good business.
The three goals are mutually exclusive. Deliberately choose which you want, and maintain discipline to achieve it.
Tom is a “marketoonist”. He was previously the VP of marketing at Method Soap, a company that depends on innovation to survive. Before that he worked at General Mills, a company that does not.
“Usage is like oxygen for ideas.” It is hard to get meaningful feedback from focus groups about products or product categories that do not yet exist. It is almost an oxymoron. A better alternative is to take products to market and see how they do.
In order to innovate, one must dare to differentiate and take risks with those differentiations. When innovating it is important not to dilute the creative ideas to the point that they no longer differentiate and are therefore irrelevant. To innovate one must nurture the germ of the creative ideas, and make them more revolutionary rather than safer. Most good ideas get killed by over-cautiousness.