Guy Kawasaki's 11-Step Plan for Innovation

Ann All

If there is a poster child for entrepreneurs, Guy Kawasaki just might be it.


He is best-known for his stint at Apple, where he helped create the Macintosh, a gig he told attendees of last Thursday's Indiana Entrepreneurship & Innovation Day in Indianapolis involved "working with the largest collection of egomaniacs in the state of California." (Please, don't tell Fake Steve Jobs.)


He kicked off his presentation with two jokes we can't resist passing along. Q: How many Macintosh employees does it take to change a lightbulb? A: One, who holds up the bulb and expects the universe to revolve around him. Q: Same question, but with Microsoft employees. A: None, because Bill Gates has declared darkness a standard.


The rest of his talk focused on tips for entrepreneurs, but we think his advice applies to established businesses as well. As fans of Kawasaki's blog know, he is fond of the list format. True to form, he presented a list of 11 key ideas for business improvement:


1. Make Meaning. "Meaning, not money, is what drives innovation today," said Kawasaki.


2. Make Mantra. Kawasaki defines this as a one- to four-word definition of "why your product, service or company exists." Instead of mantras, most companies have mission statements, which Kawasaki said are usually "meaningless." As an illustration, he showed Wendy's mission statement:

Our guiding mission is to deliver superior quality products and services for our customers and communities through leadership, innovation and partnerships.

Pretty similar to a lot of mission statements we've seen. Which is why the Dilbert Mission Statement Generator is so funny -- a fact that Kawasaki pointed out. He suggested "healthy fast food" as a mantra for Wendy's. Other examples: "peace of mind" for FedEx and "democratization of commerce" for eBay.


3. Jump to the Next Curve. This means creating the telephone instead of an improved telegraph, or a laser printer instead of a better daisy wheel printer.


4. Roll the Dicee. The meaning of the acronym: Deep, Intelligent, Complete, Elegance and Emotive, all attributes your product, service or company should possess.


As examples of Deep, Kawasaki offered the Reef Fanning, a sandal with a built-in bottle opener. Panasonic illustrates Intelligence with its BF-104 flashlight, a design that can run on three different sizes of batteries. Toyota epitomizes Complete with the Lexus, a product that is "not just a car but an experience," with its emphasis on strong service.


In a nod to his former employer, Kawasaki said the iPod Nano, which replaced the confusing array of buttons found on earlier MP3 players with a single wheel, is a good example of Elegance. And for Emotive, Harley Davidson and similar brands inspire either love or hate, "but never indifference," explained Kawasaki.


5. Don't Worry, Be Crappy. The first Macintosh was "a piece of crap," said Kawasaki, "but a revolutionary piece of crap." The idea is that a new product or service may cease to matter after numerous iterations of quality control, so don't waste time getting it to market.


Next page: Polarization can be a good thing



6. Polarize People. Exhibit A: the Toyota Scion XB, a vehicle more likely to appeal to twentysomethings who like to travel with boards (surf and snow) and a dog, but not so much to 50-year-olds who may wonder why Toyota hired "someone who got fired from Volvo to design it."


"It's OK for some people to love it and some people to hate it. The worst thing is if nobody cares," said Kawasaki.


7. Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom. Don't worry if the "wrong people" buy your stuff, said Kawasaki. "Don't sow seeds in window boxes, sow them in fields -- and see where the product takes you."


Apple created the Macintosh with the idea that folks would use it for spreadsheets, databases and word processing, noted Kawasaki. Enter Aldus PageMaker, a seminal desktop publishing program later sold to Adobe that created a strong alternate customer base for the Mac.


8. Churn, Baby, Churn. This is the "hardest lesson" for revolutionaries, said Kawasaki. While you "need to be in denial" to produce Version 1 of a product or service, you must then begin listening to feedback to prepare successive versions.


9. Niche Thyself. Put yourself in the "high right-hand corner of the matrix," said Kawasaki, where you offer a unique product with a strong value proposition for users.


In other areas of the matrix, you may have a non-unique product that requires you to compete on price (i.e., Dell); a unique product with no value (no examples offered); or a product with no value and competitors. An example of the latter category, said Kawasaki: pet food delivery services, which were offered by several companies in the midst of the dot-com boom.


Pet food delivery involves "killing a horse, putting it in a can and getting it to the dog." The problem is, said Kawasaki, "dead horses weigh a lot," meaning that any discounts on food such companies could offer were canceled out by steep shipping costs.


So, what's in the magical "high right-hand corner?" Kawasaki offered Fandango, a service that allows folks to purchase movie tickets by printing them out at home, thus avoiding long lines, sold-out shows and other problems associated with buying tickets at the theater. It's worth the service fee Fandango charges, he said.


10. The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. When pitching a new idea: 10 PowerPoint slides; 20 minutes of time allotted for your presentation (leaving time for further discussion and questions or, if you are using Windows, time to get the slides to work); 30 points for the font size on slides.


11. Don't Let the Bozos Get You Down. Be especially wary of bozos with Swiss watches, German cars and other trappings of success, said Kawasaki. Remember, "rich and famous doesn't necessarily equal smart."


Kawasaki mentioned several folks who made mistakes by listening to bozos or (sometimes) themselves. For example, Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, famously said, "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." When Kawasaki was invited to interview for the CEO position at then-new Yahoo, he said, "It's too far to drive (a 2-hour commute was involved), and I don't see how this is ever going to be a business."


He turned down the interview because "I had Ken Olsen disease," said Kawasaki, "I had been so successful on the PC curve that I couldn't embrace the Internet curve." He urged attendees to avoid this kind of an incident in their own careers by always remaining open to new ideas.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 12, 2007 3:09 PM Roderick Dunne Roderick Dunne  says:
Excellent article. It succinctly brings together some key elements of innovation management. I'm in my final year of a Masters in Technology & Innovation Management so Guys key points do hit a nerve with the key teachings. Reply

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