Innovators and entrepreneurs built this country, built this world. The thinkers and doers are those most responsible for change, progress and advancement towards the future.
But even as the great minds of this and all other ages of mankind connect and create there are oft issues which arise. These are the deadly sins of innovation. They are the mistakes and shortcomings even the most advanced of us experience when working to bring something truly earth shattering into the world.
Yet those before us have lightly etched the paths of success, prosperity, and happiness in the land. Greatness leaves clues.
“If I have seen further than other men it’s because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” -Isaac Newton
Learn from history.
Here they are, the trials and tribulations of inventors and entrepreneurs everywhere. Learn from the heroes of the past so you may shape the history of the future.
The Seven Deadly Sins of Innovation
1. Build it and they shall come. Innovation on its own is powerless.
This powerful tool of human advancement is but a means to a method. It alone cannot create massive change.
Here lies one of the most well known yet influential weaknesses of human innovation. We know its fallacy yet something deep within wants to make us feel special, make us feel important.
Yet these feelings are false.
As an individual and an entrepreneur you are no better than others. This is the level playing field of life.
“You need a very product-oriented culture… Lots of companies have great engineers and smart people. …..there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together.” -Steve Jobs
Despite what our overly ambitious and encouraging parents preferred to tell us we are not “special” per say.
Though cynical you may say, this is actually the most empowering piece of advice I may give. The coin of normalcy is a two sided sword of who you are. We are all the same…we are all different.
Because of this beautiful fact you may learn from others. History is littered with amazing creations which died on the doorstep to greatness.
You must shout your awesomeness at the top of your lungs. Share your story with the world. Without marketing, sales and spreading the message your company is certainly destined for failure.
2. Sales are Sleazy. You are not a used car salesman.
Regardless of the evil indoctrination spread by society there is nothing wrong with sales. This is the ideology of the masses which seeks to disable entrepreneurs everywhere.
It is propagated, at least in my eyes, by the belief above. People wish to think awesomeness sells itself. That is just not the case.
Great products enter the dump everyday.
Is that what you want for your invention?
“This defines entrepreneur and entrepreneurship – the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” –Peter Drucker
Sales are hard, especially as an inventor. We introverted, idea producing guys and girls struggle with this. Sales rarely come easy to the creative type.
It doesn’t matter though.
Even in an age of social media, unexpected virality and consumer trends racing across continents you need a marketing message to spread. It is hard to do. But books exist on the subject.
Would you rather be a world class writer or a best selling author?
3. Make a better mousetrap.
No one likes mice. Mice are gross.
Throughout history this has been a commonality among man.
This disgust with mice and rodents in general is evolutionarily well-founded. Rodents spread death, disease and filth. They aided in arming the Great Plagues of Europe during the Middle Ages and virtually vanquished 1/3 of the world’s population.
But people are not that dumb. Eventually we caught on. Health, sanitation and rodent removal were powerful forces in civilizing and urbanizing humanity.
We dealt with issues of excessive mice many moons ago.
As of 1996 the United States Patent Office has processed a whopping 4,400 patents dealing with the pesky problem of rodent prevention….that is over twenty new mousetrap patents ever year.
In an effort to avoid a long and time consuming rant on the excessiveness of patent trolling in today’s society think from a business perspective. What percentage of these two dozen innovative creators is making moolah off their newly designed mousetrap?
This is counter-intuitive. People clearly crave the latest, greatest and best.
But business isn’t boxing. Unlike almost every sport on Earth the best team doesn’t always win.
Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising. -Mark Twain
A prized product is not the entirety of the team, merely a piece of the puzzle. Masterful marketing and strong branding build the base in which any product must proudly display itself. Without a unity and strength in this mission market penetration is problematic at best.
Unfortunately these crucial pillars of product success are near impossible to quantify. This makes measuring up and comers against the reining royalty of industry an awfully painful process.
But where does that leave you, the aspiring inventor? Entrepreneurs smarter and better than I have shared theories.
In order to overcome the competition you need to demonstrate vastly superior stuff. Seriously. Think a second about yourself. Surely routines are regimented into your own daily life. Do you almost always shop at the same stores, eat the same recipes and listen to the tunes?
Why is that?
We are evolved to resist change and seek sanction against uncertainty.
In creating a new product you need to push these passions aside. You need to shine. Without clearly defined value propositions which provoke exactly why your goods greatly exceed that of your competition your ship will face serious headwinds.
4. Pointless Products. Not every idea is awesome. That’s just the way it is.
So how do you decide what to build? Where does your creativity come from?
As inventors it is often just what seems cool. We love creating and spend inordinate amounts of time working to design and test on a whim.
This is awesome. It is what you love.
But as a business decision it may be bad. What is the opportunity costs of creating and spending your time on an ultimately unsuccessful product? What could you create instead?
“I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.” –Thomas Edison
When working to innovate always ask what the market wants. Who is the ideal customer and why are they so excited about what you are building they absolutely must have it?
Have an idea?
Test. Test. Test.
Seriously. I have made this mistake more times than I care to count. It is so exciting to jump deep into a project without even considering outside feedback. Ideas easily get ingrained in our heads as we push forward in an advancement deeper down the rabbit hole.
This crushes entrepreneurs.
People value their own ideas so greatly. We become vested in the success of a substance only we had a hand in making. But what about economics?
Building a solution for a non-existent market ultimately ends in sadness…trust me.
Avoid this ugly path and put your products and prototypes in the hands of others. Feedback frees your mind to explore new avenues and validate assumptions of use and desire.
This is true entrepreneurship.
5. Precarious Perfection. The curse of innovation.
How many among us would label themselves as perfectionists? Do you take the time to ensure absolute aesthetic beauty and brilliance with all your creations?
This affliction hereby known as the Steve Job’s syndrome is glorified in the circles of success and startups.
But truly it is the heartless heretic holding back many an entrepreneur from action.
Perfection is a puzzle without end. It is an endlessly evolving game unable to be won.
Speed is power in business. The ability of startups to innovate, pivot and produce new products is the only way to compete against big business.
Perfection punctures this strength.
Ask any successful entrepreneur. As the lean startup mentality of ever-improving iterations gains more and more steam among circles of success and business building power the story gets more and more clear.
Your first guess is wrong. Fail fast.
We never know the unexpected avenues our creations can continue down until we begin. But waiting for the perfect product pushes this further and further back.
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”- Bill Gates
The future and success of your company is cruelly put on hold at the whim of a perfectionist. Overcome this fear.
People will love your product if it solves a pain. Sexy or not this paradigm holds true.
Trash plans of perfection and put out a viable solution. You will be amazed with the responses and certainly seek new roads once unheard of in order to better position and push your creation.
6. Tremendously Top Secret. This is not the movies. Announcing an idea doesn’t destroy your possibility for success.
Where did this James Bond state secret of entrepreneurial endeavors come into existence? Why do first time founders feels the need to guard their “gamechanging” business idea with their lives?
I wish I knew. I did the same thing as an unassuming founder. Vague descriptions, intentional uncertainty and the all too pathetic NDA’s.
“Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.” -Guy Kawasaki
What makes founders feel this way?
Almost assuredly it is the culture of entrepreneurship in our country.
When it comes to business few will ever actually attempt to create something great. The majority are more than content to constantly work for an employer.
Whatever floats your boat I guess.
But as you examine further this idea of secrecy the question of abundance comes into play.
Do you have a scarcity or abundance mentality? The majority believe in the scarcity of success. This limits ideas, innovations and risk taking among them.
It is also what works its way into the minds of prospective founders. Feeling their way through the world of startups and supreme success people become guarded. We fear others will steal our amazing ideas.
But this is not the case at all. Ask any accomplished entrepreneur. He or she will freely feed you a multitude of potentially lucrative plans to build a business.
Ideas are meaningless. You cannot cash them in at the bank. Of course if you have a truly revolutionary product patent it first. A simple provisional patent protects you in the unlikely scenario someone steals your fully fledged innovation.
But execution is everything.
Sharing ideas not only establishes you as an experienced individual in the field of entrepreneurship but also aids unlocking the brilliance of others. People want to help.
Spreading your story and creation cultivates a culture of helping and will lend amazing new ideas.
7. Undervaluing Awesome. What is your innovation worth?
Why is this never the question in the heads and hearts of inventors?
As an educated engineer I know full well the follies of business brought about by university. In studies sales are strategically avoided and innovators rarely exposed to the environment of commerce.
Such an upbringing blinds creators to the power of price. Price is pusher of success.
But how do you price your priceless products?
You put your heart and soul into creating something amazing. What is it worth?
Probably more than you think. As makers we have a tendency to undervalue our inventions. It is in our nature. We created a crazy awesome product to alleviate a pain and solve a problem. Putting a high price point eliminates audiences and feels wrong.
Believe me my thoughts followed this foolish path once. But better ways work wonders.
“There is always a percentage of the market who will pay more and want a premium solution.” –James Schramko
Building a business around mass market rubbish is ruthless. The armies of Amazon and other giants desecrate the space of low end commodities. Victories here are frugal and short lived.
Instead add quality and a premium push to your products. Margins make the difference in business.
Selling yourself short ultimately disables any attempt to share your creation with the world and crucifies your business before traction can even be tested.
Test pricing constantly. Profits push new innovations and allow expansion.
Where will the path of profit lead you?
I sincerely hope you enjoyed this article. What are some of the struggles and successes you have had as an entrepreneur and an inventor?
If this post made you think and helps you go forward building a business of awesome. If you think others need to hear it share it with friends. I don’t have the answers but I want to help you change the world.