Innovation Lessons Worth Heeding

“The culture of innovation is across the globe is more robust than ever. We think that’s worth celebrating.” –

Robert Safian, Editor Fast Company


Fast Company Magazine, March 2014

I received Fast Company March 2014 edition on high note because it is packed with ideas on innovation and innovative companies list from around the world. I feel extremely motivated and inspired. I love innovation and I’d one day dream of getting into innovation in education. Well I am working on it block by block.

In this edition, Fast Company covers a list of 50 Most Innovative Companies together with 10 companies from 10 sectors and loaded with things these companies did, do and going to do on innovation front. Most of these companies are tech-based ranging from apps (Dropbox), medical (Medivation), communication (Google), tech centre (iHub), smart phone (Xiaomi), engineering (GE), elelctrical (Tesla and Philips) and genomics (Beijing Genomics Institute). A long list indeed and I bet some of the companies were unheard of. But I rather attracted to the innovation lessons in Fast Company March 2014 edition and there are truly motivating for me to share. There are 12 altogether, but for relevance I cut it short.


This is about focus, focus and focus. Google tops the list for this one for its ability to focus in Search business. You can refer to Google company website and they will say the same thing. While it is extremely difficult to apply focus when you are a start-up, many people think it is easier for the big companies. Trust me it is equally difficult or worse. Focus breeds exceptional quality and mastery. In the world where “innovation” is ubiquitous, exceptional product will stand out. It is those that holds the red umbrella among the blacks will be seen and that’s truly exceptional. We need to really think through our product so it becomes exceptional before we launch it. Once launched and spotted as red umbrella, it has to deliver promises. It is expected these days. If you think you don’t cant make it exceptional yet, communicate that to your customers. They are more than happy to oblige and help you achieve your next goal.


I had experience this 1st hand and unfortunately it wasn’t a pleasant one but good learning. When developing product, speed is the name of the game. Sometimes, too much information is not a good thing. My advise is to keep some nascent stage innovation on stealth mode (under the radar). Only people that need to know knows. To announce it big at nascent stage will kill every idea even before it starts. Next is to develop basic product fast enough and learn from it and make adjustment as we go along (with a strict timeline). We call it prototype and prototype is for testing. However non-product developers may not understand this and always use labeling like lousy product even during at prototyping stage. It is incomplete product and it has to evolve. It is episodic but it certainly has continuity. In education for example, there’s already matured science in learning but if you force down the teachers throat to change you can backlash. Pick your right beta-testers and launch it stealth mode.


When you talk to hard core product developers, money isn’t a big thing. I know how it feels because I have been there once and I learn my lessons. Product developers love their product sacredly. But we have to pay bills to survive the company and the idea, and therefore when you think you want to launch a nicely packaged product but you cant sell, that’s bad news. Try to get something that you can sell even for small amount because money matters. Get up and grow it further.


I have a friend who is doing code programming using talents around the world where specifications are mostly done online through email, skype and chat. When the prototype is ready for test and they test a few rounds online then towards the final stage they meet to fix it. Client is rope in during prototyping stage and collaboratively enhance product effectiveness. There is also services right now for product testers (these are talents too!). This efficiency can be emulate but human touch is critical in this kind of relationship. In education this is not a distant future because technology enabled education is already a big opportunity, check MOOC. Technology has allowed most of us to get connected and magic happens on daily basis.


There is a saying that “do what you love”. But I am in the opinion that at the beginning you have to try to love what you are doing because you are starting out. Not many people get to do what they love at first, slowly they understand themselves better and make a choice to do what they love later in life. If you are not passionate with what you are doing right now, take a step back and evaluate. If you have been doing it for 20-30 years and it is killing you inside, time to make a good judgment. If you decide to stay, contribute rather than isolate yourself. If you really have found what you love doing, jump in. You never know where it will take you, sometimes to happier places. 🙂


Aligning your team to customer centric and market driven can help innovation thrives in difficult time.

Customer is king. In education, the students are the customers and they have a say. In some schools, the students get to rate their teachers and hold the key for the teacher’s job and promotion. With the democratization of information through online, print and social media people have a good sense of what is good experience and what is bad in education. Yes some businesses get away with it but they don’t last long and most of the time they are non-committal to making customers happy. This applies to other businesses as well and other parts of your company. There are many opportunities to make customers happy, it is whether you think it is going to make any economic sense or not. If yes, start investing small and grow. If not, in time someone will pick it up.


Day dreaming can be a good thing.

Science has proofs that day dreaming in the day has positive effects on your productivity and creativity. In innovation the feeling of trying to get something up and make it possible like something big coming out of your chest and brain motivate us to keep working on our prototypes and innovative ideas. The sensation of dreaming is exhilarating and rewarding when you successfully deliver what was at first in your brain. To start something small or thrive something big requires all of us to dream and dream big. I usually start by talking about my dream to other people about it and accept their frown as learning opportunities. You will soon realize that they are like minded people that have the same dream. Geez dreaming is contagious and we can dream big together!

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