This is third of a series of thoughts grown from a presentation I gave last month at an event at Cambridge University. Officially, it’s my take on the three critical factors for building successful companies, careers and lives. In reality, I’ve been dying for an excuse to introduce Robocop, Spiderman, StarWars, The Matrix and Guns & Roses to this blog, and think I’ve finally done it. If you enjoy this, do watch for the other posts in this series – Ethics and Future Gazing.
“Create acceptable change that is interesting and challenging but not alienating.” Lee Shupp
In 2048 Man and Machine will merge. When debating Ray Kurzweil’s vision, it is always astonishing that some people attribute all the power to the machine, when it is actually “man” (or woman) that will initiate and drive this event.
That is a crucial point to remember – and the 3rd of my critical factors for successful companies, careers and lives – that behind every great innovation, stands a great person.
And I’d go even further to say that any innovation or subsequent technology will only fly if it is accepted by people. This seems like common sense, doesn’t it? But I have spoken with people who wanted to convince me that a job board’s millions of users should change their behaviour to fall in line with their invention. Rather than trying to convince me of how these millions of users won’t be able to do with out their innovation and its uptake will be almost intuitive due to the end benefit it provides.
I look at many new businesses at the moment that are built on the same misunderstanding. I see them investing in bringing new inventions to market that assume – no, actually rely on – consumers changing their current behaviour. And for no apparent end benefit. For me that isn’t invention, that is laziness and stubbornness on the part of the inventor. Don’t fall into this trap.
People:the best indicators of room for innovation
To me, successful innovation is borne of the commitment to “Seek out the inefficiencies in the system” or in other words “Overcome frustrations felt by those involved”. This is in direct contrast to the approach of manybusinesses that ask “what does our competitors do?” or “what do our customers want?” I can tell you from experience, answers to those questions will only make you samey (that’s a technical term!) and won’t bring you into a better place. What you have to identify are the frustration points. Ask your customer: “What pisses you off?” To my mind, that’s the place to start the innovation process.
Richard Branson did just this with Virgin Airlines. He found people were most frustrated about the check-in process and the long, boring flight. So Virgin Airlines concentrated on making these experiences more enjoyable and they succeeded.
Social Media is another example of overcoming pain points. Anybody, who still dismisses social media as only an exchange of random pieces of personal information doesn’t understand that social media brings freedom and gives the user a more empowering experience. Social Media is about direct and instant communication that isn’t controlled and channelled by few information brokers.
Dealing with non-believers
When you are on the path to innovation you will often confronted by non-believers. You maybe asked: Has this been done before? Has this been done successfully? These are not – and I can’t emphasize this enough – valid questions. These are excuses.
The key is focusing on innovation that delivers to any of the below:
– overcoming a frustration;
– increasing convenience
– creating a win-win-win.
If it delivers on any of these points, questioning whether it has been done before, successfully or otherwise, is irrelevant.
The other set of questions you may be asked on the path to innovation is around finances. Will it make money immediately? Will it be easy to sell? Most likely not! But I tell you, when I started at Jobsite we were laughed out of the room by hirers and recruiters, because they thought the internet and online recruitment were nonsense. If an innovation ticks all the boxes above and you believe in it, don’t be put off by the time it takes time lift off. It will happen. Have confidence and never fall for excuses.
The two ingredients for success
Commercial success boils down to just two things: Are we solving problems and are we making people feel good?
When I evaluate ideas and innovation, I just look at how the proposed concepts will affect people. Does it solve their problems and does it make them feel good while doing so?! Key here is “and”. Success is inevitable when both aspects of this equation are met.
And the next key question is: how can I increase the convenience and experience even more so?
To use my own industry as an example, I believe the next area of innovation for job boards will be personalization. Just see how it delivers against the two ingredients for success.
– The problem solved for people: Reducing the time and hassle involved in identifing the most suitable roles for an individual
– How it makes people feel good: Higher success ratio and quicker job finding process
And, on to the next key question:
– How to increase convenience and the experience further: Reaching out to people with job options that they’d never thought about, just prior to them consciously making the decision to move on. You could almost call it mind reading!
To wrap this post up, my 3rd critical factor for successful companies, careers and lives is all about people and about creating more convenience and better experience for people.
This brings me to the end of my Man Vs Machine series. My aim was to show you that the journey to 2048 will be quite a ride. I’m excited and can’t wait to see how it unfolds. Given we can’t stop time (yet!), moving into the future and whatever it brings is inevitable. I do believe, however, that we can influence the success of our companies, careers and lives into this future if we are mindful of three things:
– Future gazing
– Importance of people
I’d be interested to hear how you see the path to 2048 unfolding! I hope, in contrast to Sarah and John Connor, we won’t need to cross the paths of any Terminators.