Challenge the common assumptions in the category
Many founders did not initially have direct backgrounds in their industries, therefore bring a unique perspective that contribute to their business successes as highlighted in the case of Hint Water and Counsyl.
Other established companies, like Patagonia, challenge common assumptions at the core of a business. Patagonia encourages reusing (Wornwear), swapping and not buying on Black Friday; they also decided to share the new bio based technology for wetsuit material with other companies, rather than patenting it for sole use and profit. Yet their business is flourishing and has developed a strong consumer loyalty to their brand.
Finally, another fascinating story about innovation came from Fairlife (http://fairlife.com). The idea was originally created by a farmer who used a filtration technology to increase protein content, decrease sugar content and remove lactose from milk. It ultimately became a co-venture with Coca-Cola, who launched Fairline milk and milk products. They developed drink that boosts the benefits of the milk (protein and vitamins), while removing the extra sugar and maintaining a great taste. I never drink milk but I tried their banana milk and it tasted delicious!
Be comfortable embracing ambiguity, messiness and failure by creating a supportive environment.
Ed Catmull, the President of Disney and Pixar Animations studios, was explicit in highlighting the importance of embracing the mindset that acknowledges the innovation process (here focused on creating a new movie) is messy, scary and will require failure and continuous changes: you try to get it right and it sucks, you have to iterate until you know. On the other hand, he reminds us of the importance of setting a system that will eventually make it right while the maintaining an environment that will “make it safe to run around the wilderness.”
Make users core and center of your business
More companies and organizations have embraced the need to have the users at the center of their innovation. The first striking example was the US Navy. They realized that their submarine computer systems, while working well, were cumbersome and hard to learn for 20-years-old sailors who were used to computer games. The TANG team redesigned their process using design thinking principles. The result is a new process that uses common products such as X-box, iPad and smartphone to simplify and make the experience of the operators more relevant.
” The focus group is dead,” said Jane Park, the founder of Julep, a new brand of nail salon and nail polishes, who wanted to create off and online locations for women to talk and exchange. For Julep, testing is about women voting with their money. Are they going to (re)purchase? They used Kickstarter as a way to gauge the interest in a new packaging for their line of nail polish. Only after overreaching their goal, did they decided to invest and launch.
Power of social media/co-creation
In a connected world, traditional media and top down approach are being replaced by co-creation and social medias. In an interesting panel, Boyce Avenue (a rock band), Ingrid Nilsen (“YouTube personality”) and Grace Helbig (comedian and “YouTube personality”) explained how they created their own success through YouTube, rather than the traditional venues. For this generation, it is about getting complete creative control and not depending on institutions.
Pacing is critical
On one hand, founders acknowledge that it is important to move forward and yet as Andrew Mason, a founder of Groupon now working on his new start-up called Detour, emphasized it has to be the correct pace. “Being patient, going slow before we go fast” is what will bring success. While we may not all be in a start-up or start-up like settings, those principles can be embraced to help changes that need to be made in our environment.