Innovation Perspectives – Five Misconceptions of Innovation

This is the third of several ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on ‘What is the most dangerous current misconception in innovation?’. Now, here is Jim Estill’s perspective:

by Jim Estill

Misconceptions about InnovationThe five most common misconceptions of innovation include:

1.In order for an innovation to succeed, it must be dramatically different than any other products in the market. Wrong. In reality if something is dramatically different than what’s in the market, it can be very difficult for people to put a frame of reference on the product, so they won’t know what to do with it to start with. I sit on the board of Research In Motion and when RIM first came out with their Blackberry, they called it a two-way pager, because people in that area understood what pager was, but didn’t understand an e-mail device on their hip.

2. Major innovation is most important. Wrong. In most cases, innovation is not major, not catastrophic, rather it happens a little bit at a time. One of the best processes I’ve seen to to innovate within a company is the very simple five whys and asking the how question at the end. This helps create a planned course of action, critical to any new project.

3. Everyone likes change. Wrong. Although most people say they like change, when it comes to really changing, most people actually prefer the status quo. In order to get changes to be adopted, usually there needs to be pain in not changing, or there needs to be enough pleasure in changing to get people to change.

One thing that slows change is often there is temporary pain before the pleasure begins, for example adopting a new technology. Like getting a new digital camera for instance. It takes a little time to get used to, plug in, figure out how to do everything on it, where the old camera which arguably gives less pleasure and worse pictures is simple, easy and no pain.

4. Management, experts and creative people are the ones best to come up with innovation. Wrong. Some of the best innovations come from people who are actually on the line or the customers using the product. Many great innovations come from people whose job it is not to really come up with the innovations. Innovations are often an accidental result of someone who is not really trying to innovate or not knowing enough not to try something that the experts “know cannot possibly work”.

Often, innovations are the work of lazy people. “If you have a difficult task, give it to a lazy person; they will find an easier way to do it.” – Hlade’s Law

5. All innovation is good. Wrong. There’s many innovations that are best left in the closet. We’ve all seen and heard of lots of inventions that we laugh at, that should never have been brought to the market. One example that comes to mind is a motorized ice cream cone.

You can check out all of the ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles from the different contributing authors on ‘What is the most dangerous current misconception in innovation?’ by clicking the link in this sentence.

Jim EstillJim Estill is a venture capitalist, author and business consultant. He sits on the board of RIM. He is a blogger at or follow him on twitter @jimestill.

Jim Estill




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