First Six Rules Of Innovation

Rules(WII-FM)Whenever I go into a company or organization to train, or teach any marketing class the first thing I teach is always ask “What’s In It For Me?”, WII-FM. What do I get out of it? What do I walk away with? What are my take-a-ways?

You either will ask yourself this consciously or subconsciously? Everything you do is a transaction, even reading a blog. With a buy / sell transaction you always valuate what you are buying against what you are spending. And, in your mind, if you are at least getting what you are paying for, then you are happy with the transaction and the transaction is successful and your are satisfied.




When you pay for a seminar, go to a conference, take a class, buy a book, or read a blog, you need to ask WII-FM. Even if you aren’t spending your money per se, you are spending your time. And time is a valuable and scarce commodity. Time, really is money.

With that said, I’ll share with you’re the WII-FM’s that I learned from many of my experiences. I’ll give you the take-a-ways that I benefited from and that have guided me through my career of being a successful entrepreneur. Some are obvious. Some I’ll point out. Some I’ll explain in detail. And some I will leave for you to discover on your own. Those are usually the best.

Here are some of the WII-FM Innovation Rules you can find buried in my last blog entry; Founding The Assistive Technology Industry. These Rules apply to large corpations who want to be more innovative, with existing products or service, companies who want to launch new produsts, small companies who want to be more competitive, or even the small entrepreneurial start-ups. These Rules will help anyone who wants their business to be more Innovative:

Rule #1
Shift Your Perspective
Look outside of your industry. If you are trying to find a solution to a problem that is pervasive in your industry, don’t look in your industry. If there were a solution already available, you would have known about it. You are trained in that industry and are probably well informed about the latest techniques and solutions. You have to look outside of your industry to find your answer.

When I present my Creative Thinking Conference I discuss the story of Henry Ford and what made him famous. Take a moment right now and answer this question. What Made Henry Ford famous as an entrepreneur and inventor?… The Assembly Line, right?

Until Henry Ford’s assembly line, every automobile was made by hand and one at a time. Ol’ Henry came up with the idea that instead for putting the car in one spot and have all of the different assembly technicians work on the car one after the other moving their tools and parts from car to car, keep the technicians, parts and tools stationary and have the car come to them.

Where did that idea come from? Certainly not from within the auto industry. Everyone was doing the same way, the old inefficient way. The idea came from a Michigan potato farm.

One afternoon Henry was out on a local potato farm and saw potatoes rolling up a conveyor belt into the back of a truck. He immediately imagined each potato an automobile moving on a conveyor belt past his technicians. Henry Ford and the potato conveyor belt provided the solution to mass production through assembly line that is used in every manufacturing industry to this day and revolutionized the auto industry.

When looking at a problem or challenge, remember what Albert Einstein said about insanity. “Insanity is doing the same thing, the same way, and expecting different results.”

Rule #2
Pick Up The Phone

Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and start calling people. At first I was intimidated about calling Apple, IBM, the voice board developer at his home. Do you know what? They are people just like us. They really do put their pants on one leg at a time. Whenever you ask for help, people always rise to the occasion. Almost always, if you have a legitimate reason for calling (not trying to just sell something or make a complaint), you can actually get to the top. It’s surprising how many presidents and CEO of major corporations I’ve spoke with over the years once I learned and felt comfortable with this rule.

Rule #3
Listen To The Answers

I didn’t want to hear the answer I was being told. I didn’t want to be told I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to hear that the hardware, peripherals, and all of the individual software wouldn’t work together that way.

If I had listened, I would have heard that the solution I was trying to develop wasn’t the right solution. That moment of “inspiration” or “Innovation”, was when I instantly understood that the solution was to throw it all away and look at the problem from one lever higher. Don’t try to make each piece all of the existing software work together, throw it away, and write one piece of software that communicates to everything at the same time. As soon as I realized this, the solution was clear and actually took less time to create than the time I spent trying to make the wrong solution work.

Rule #4
Set Impossible Deadlines
In this case, I didn’t set the deadline. The deadline was set for me. That fact in retrospect was a good thing. If there were no deadline, I probably would have worked on it half heartedly until I gave up. By having a specific date of completion and the consequence of blowing off a commitment to an entire hospital staff and a human who’s life was in the balance was sufficient motivation for me to get it completed on time and at any cost.

Set impossible deadlines for yourself, and keep them. If you have to move one occasionally, that’s O.K., but don’t make it a habit. Respect those deadlines. Also, commit. Put yourself in a position where if you don’t make a deadline there is consequence. The greater the consequence the more likely it will be that you’ll succeed. Commitment is a huge motivator and an important underlying cause that drives us entrepreneurs. Because of the importance of commitment, I’ll speak to it more, later.

Rule #5
Don’t Ever Give UpDont Ever Give Up
Rules #5 and #6 are by far the most important rules and always apply to every great innovation. These two rules will be the cornerstone of every successful entrepreneur’s story and permeates all my stories.

You can’t fail if you don’t quit. Let me restate this: quitting is the only way you can fail. The number one rule in being an entrepreneur is to Never Give Up ! Keep trying. Failure is only telling you that this isn’t the way to solve the problem, keep trying. Remember a solution is forever. Sometimes you’ll build an entire company around one solution. It has to be the right one.

Thomas Edison successfully filed 1,093 U.S. Patents in his career. When he was asked about his first patent, the light bulb and of his many failed attempts, Tom replied, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He didn’t give up and one was the right way to make a light bulb.

Rule #6
Don’t Be Afraid To Fail

The fear of failing can be debilitating. Obviously, Thom had this emotion under control. If you don’t try, you can’t possibly succeed. I joke around with my wife that when I die, I want on my tombstone “Don’t judge me as much by my successes, but as how many times I’ve tried.” Remember, the people who will judge you on your failures haven’t anything better to do because they aren’t out there trying because they are afraid to fail.

You can succeed at anything you try. Don’t be afraid to try and don’t ever give up trying!


Lon Safko
Innovative Thinking

Lon LIVE !