Entrepreneurial Innovation

March 2, 2009

Wow. I haven’t posted since 2008!!! I will not make excuses, I love blogging, and I am excited to get back into the groove. So much has happened over the past 2 months like the inauguration of President Obama, Sully the Pilot’s heroics, and hitting a 10 year low in the stock market. Over this period I’ve had some epiphanies, one which I would like to present today… that being, innovation is incremental.

Innovation is Incremental – Since August I’ve been working with a team of engineering students to develop a mobile application for a Fortune 500 company. We’ve had our ups and our downs. Recently we had an internal discussion regarding our goal; the question was if we needed to create an innovative interface or an innovative application? The application we began developing was clearly an innovative interface; all the content existed, the basic idea and concept is widely available via other applications, all we were doing was presenting it in a “cooler” manner. I hated this application, and voiced my opposition on the grounds of lack of innovation. Before revealing the idea to the sponsor company, we had an internal review revealing our application to a group of PhD’s. During the review the innovative interface application was bashed by the PhDs also due to lack of innovation. We had a list of 8 other applications we created, 3 of them which I considered innovative. The presented application was dumped. Our new task was to choose 1 of these 8 remaining ideas using innovative application as the main criteria. This is when I realized innovation is incremental.

People used mail before electronic mail (email), listened to Walkmans before iPods, and instant messaged before twittering. These are incremental innovations. While selecting a new mobile application to develop I was unaware of the incremental nature of innovation. I campaigned for the most innovative of the 8 applications, but my team pushed back saying the idea is a new paradigm, which is bad. New paradigms change behaviors, which is a risky endeavor (especially for a conservative Fortune 500 company). I became aware the most innovative application may be ahead of its time, and too far a jump from the current market. Eventually we settled on an application using current content, presenting it not only in a “cool” manner, but also in a different manner by mixing medias to create an interactive experience unlike any other. The mobile application we are moving forward with is an innovative interface and an innovative application, but without creating a new paradigm. The application marries two behaviors together in a manner never done before to create an incremental innovation with great potential. Taking the innovation is incremental approach facilitates us in delivering a great mobile application.


Business Strategy:Don’t be a Tourist

August 1, 2008

My July vacation is finally over!  In July I’ve been working for a small start-up on a SEO project, enjoying the summer, and traveling to such places as Montreal, Nashville, St. Louis, Detroit and Minneapolis. I am tired of traveling, but I do have a little more to do before summers end. One aspect I love about traveling is experiencing new cultures, all be it mostly American cultures. American cultures are similar yet unique; everywhere people eat PB&J sandwiches, shop at the local mall, and use Google to search the internet, but some Americans pass on PB&J’s for St. Louis BBQ, shop at the Mall of America instead of the local shopping center, and search Google for the hottest new pair of cowboy boots, not for the closest Wal-Mart. During my travels I experienced St. Louis BBQ in St. Louis, aimlessly wondered the Mall of America in Minneapolis, and Googled cowboy boots while in Nashville. My goals while traveling are: 1. Experience the local culture, and 2. AVOID LOOKING LIKE A TOURIST! My goals while traveling are transferable to business strategy.

Start-up businesses should experience local cultures and avoid looking like tourists. Local cultures in business are unexplored business territories. Explore these territories. Search for new areas within your start-up’s scope of business, even if unfamiliar. Submit your business to take in and learn as much about the unexplored, almost becoming a member of the unexplored, but DO NOT be a tourist! Entering the unexplored is scary and difficult; if entered without confidence others will see you as a tourist. A tourist is one that goes on a tour for pleasure or culture. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of a tour is “a journey for business, pleasure, or education often involving a series of stops and ending at the starting point.” While researching new business territories you are touring new areas, but areas which you may not want to leave (you may not want to end “at the starting point”). The best strategy to enter and stay in a new businesses territory is to learn the territory first hand by experiencing it (experience the local culture) and blend in like an expert (avoid looking like a tourist) in case you choose to stay. By exemplifying confidence and avoiding looking like a tourist, your business will be more accepted into its new community if you choose to stay. Don’t be afraid to experience the local culture as long as you avoid looking like a tourist.

The Art of Corporate Blogging

June 23, 2008

Last week I cam across a great blog post titled “7 Reasons Why Corporate Blogs Are Absolutely Useless.” Eventhough I disagree with the author, Ben Jones, I find the post thought provoking. Please find the 7 reasons from Ben’s blog (http://ben-means-business.com) and my response following the excerpt:

Reason#1: Fear of Transparency

People who read blogs expect to “know” the author, and participate in discussions with the author and other readers. They enjoy an atmosphere that is genuine and has a “living room” feel. In other words, they expect you to acknowledge problems, fixes, and incidents instead of using your blog to further validate cover-ups. Remember, PR ploys are for people who read the newspaper. Blog readers are a different breed and they respect and embrace what’s “real”.

Reason#2: Infrequent Posting

Even if you’ve created great content on your blog, people will stop visiting after they drop by a few times and there’s nothing new. A blog requires time to maintain and is important enough to assign somebody to the task exclusively.

Reason#3: Too Much Advertising

Advertisements, product introductions, and the like are great material for blogs. However, don’t overdue it. Remember, you have a website to market your great products. You have a blog to market your great company. Don’t confuse the two.

Reason#4: Blog is Just Plain Boring

Doesn’t have to be stocked full of information…Give them a peek “inside” the company. Tip: Post pictures from company gatherings, employee awards, run contests, polls, etc… Just make it interesting.

Reason#5: Blog Doesn’t Allow Feedback

Correct me if I’m wrong but I thought that blogs were meant to create discussion. If not, what makes them different from a website? Needless to say, I was absolutely floored to find that most corporate blogs don’t allow comments. Interesting…to say the least.

Reason#6: Lack of Participation

People want the chance to hear you respond to their thoughts, concerns, feelings, etc… It’s makes your customers feel like they matter. Don’t just ask their opinion and leave them hanging. Respond, and do so with grace, confidence, and a nice disposition.

Reason#7: Blog Lacks Substance

Your company already has arms, legs, and feet(yours and your employees), but none of those things are more important and/or powerful than having a voice. A blog gives your company a voice. So value that voice and use it with purpose.” (http://ben-means-business.com/7-reasons-why-corporate-blogs-are-absolutely-useless, June 16, 2008.)

I responded as follows:

First-rate blogging organizations benefit both the organizations and their customers. Well done corporate blogs are dynamic; they provide value to the public (hopefully future customers), but the blog has no value unless the public utilizes it, thus the organization must convince the public to choose to read it (while not seeming self-serving). The best strategy to direct people to a corporate blog without seeming self-serving is to create one which is NOT self-serving; create value for the public, embrace and promote participation, interact with the readers (reply to comments), and DO NOT promote. The best corporate blogs artfully present problems, which they have the ability to solve, and provide a piece to the solution. For many, the piece is good enough to independently solve the problem, but others will research further into the corporate blogger and become quality leads. The small sample of corporate blogs I’ve read impress me, and I’ve learned some great knowledge from them. One blog continuously comes to mind while typing this post: HubSpot out of Cambridge, MA… http://blog.hubspot.com/.

I am interested in knowing others thoughts and feelings about corporate blogging. Please utilize the comments section for your opinions.