Innovation – Everything You Need to Know in 12 Quotes

by Tom Koulopoulos

Innovation - Everything You Need to Know in 12 QuotesTweetable wisdom about the right and wrong ways to go about #innovating.

There are hundreds of books on innovation; millions of words promising to help you create a culture of innovation. That’s a lot of reading. But what if we could boil down all of that sage advice into something a whole lot easier to digest, and broadcast. Sure, revolutions need manifestos but they also need mantras.

I challenged myself to come up with a dozen tweetable quotes that capture the lessons I’ve learned from over 30 years of studying innovation, reading my fair share of books on the topic, and writing a few of my own. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that 140 characters will not an innovator make, but then again I’ve seen a few carefully written or spoken words on the part of a leader have enormous impact on setting a company’s attitude towards innovation.

For each quote I’ve identified a well-known company or person (and in one case an entire industry) that I think best illustrates the point. Some of these are quotes about behaviors and attitudes that you want to emulate in order to foster innovation–those are the ones with the (+) before the company name. Others, with a (-) before the company name, you would do well to avoid–these are the behaviors and attitudes that not only stand in the way of innovation but ultimately kill companies.

Do you have your own tweetable innovation quote and company to add to the list?

1. “If you try to innovate by pleasing the market you’ll fail. Markets only know what they have experienced and #InnovationChangesExperience.”

(+) Apple, which brought both the iPod and the iPhone to market during recessions (2001/2007) when they were the last thing we wanted and everything we never knew we needed.

2. “Rather than say ‘That’s not the way we do it here,’ try instead just saying ‘We prefer to let someone else do it that way so that they can #takeawayourcustomers.’ “

(-) Borders Books lost it all to Amazon, to which it had outsourced it’s e-comm business in 2001! Yeah, sometimes companies are just that dumb.

3. “The experience of how things have been done conspires against us when it comes to predicting the potential value of a new idea.” #experienceconspires

(-) Kodak, which invented digital photography and was then bankrupted by it.

4. “Success has the effect of #stallinginnovation by creating the illusion of having achieved a status that can easily be put at risk by sudden movements.”

(+) 3M, which pioneered the concept of benchmarking innovation as a function of revenue from new products brought to market each year–forcing them to constantly experiment and bring new products to market

5. “It’s as though we develop such conviction in our ability to predict what’s to come that we refuse to take a #detourintoreality when we run directly into it.”

(-) Blockbuster, which refused to buy into the demise of big box video rentals and passed up a deal to buy Netflix for a paltry $50 Mill in 2000 (Instead they chose Enron for video streaming–really!)

6. “Innovation is a very unforgiving, constantly accelerating treadmill.” #InnovationTreadmill

(+) Intel, which has had to live up to the unrelenting pace of miniaturization and a constant stream of naysayers who keep predicting the end of the line for Moore’s law.

7. “#Abandoningsuccess isn’t about just tossing out prior knowledge. It’s about not being bound by the limits of the past in testing the limits of the future.”

(+) SpaceX and it’s visionary founder Elon Musk who simply refuses to accept the limits of the past.

8. “In established industries the seeds of innovation can seem more like irritating weeds.” #seedsorweeds

(+) OnStar, which despite being born in the midst of what may have been one of the least innovative companies at the time, GM, went on to become one of the US automotive industries most profitable and valuable brands.

9. “Great innovation, like Michelangelo’s David, has to be liberated from its confines.” #liberatinginnovation

(+) Google, because there really are only two human eras; BG and AG.

10. “Great innovation is like deza vu; it brings us face to face with ideas that appear uncannily familiar once we embrace them.” #Innovationdejavu

(+) Facebook, which showed us what to do with every minute of free time we still had left (and a few minutes we never knew we had).

11. “Success breeds complacency, eliminating the need to change and the #willingnesstofail.”

(-) The US auto industry, which stared at the oncoming light for decades, wondering what it was, until it had been run over by the caboose, 50 freight cars, and a little old lady crossing the tracks in a Kia…

12. “We give up on our ideas too fast and then we grieve over their carcasses for too long. Pick yourself up, learn, and #keepmoving.”

(+) Henry Ford, whose first company actual filed for bankruptcy, and whose second company had to be disbanded, before he started his third company, yes, that one, Ford Motor Company!

This article was originally published on Inc.

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Thomas KoulopoulosTom Koulopoulos is the author of 10 books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc. 500 company that focuses on innovation and the future of business. He tweets from @tkspeaks.