Saturday, February 17, 2007

Subscribing to a path
of innovation

Sustainable new products and services can't be launched with the idea that you're going to put something past people.

The day and age of "you can't fool all of the people all of the time" has been with us for a long time. What's changed is the speed with which collective wisdom develops and is shared.

This works for you as a sustainable entrepreneur or new product developer. This only works against you if you're trying to game the system.

You need to fix highly definable problems for the benefit of the community you operate in commercially. You and your organization need to do this transparently and, to the best of your ability, elegantly.

I'd like to circle back to a very good book by Douglas Rushkoff, "Get Back In The Box". He concludes his introduction with, ".. we'll look at today's artificially fragmented landscape of customers, employees, and shareholders, and how this false division leads to an 'us and them' animosity. By seeing all of them, and ourselves, as part of the very same system, or even community, we break through this artificially adversarial relationship. We even start to wonder how our enterprises might actually solve real problems, rather than trying to 'create need' for our services. Answering real needs becomes the simple but astonishingly effective solution to almost every business challenge in this seemingly complex era."

If you are to be sustainable, you'll need the community you operate within. Be uber transparent and accurate with yourself and others. Define the metrics that describe success. Measure the progress you and your organization make toward solving the problems you've defined.

Especially for those of us working in sustainable new product development, the message is clear. Define the problem. Innovate solutions that honor simplicity, effectiveness and your community of stakeholders.

As Mr. Rushkoff says later in his book, "To put it simply, communities naturally build around product lines that overflow with intrinsic value. People may talk about a brilliant advertising campaign, but they will never advocate an ad the way they advocate a product they love. A company's real relationship with a customer is not communicated through the marketing, however compelling it may be. It is communicated through the cup holders in the doors, the easy-to-read LED display in the cell phone cover… Companies speak to us through the details and the quality of their products: the feeling of discovering a knob on the dashboard just where your hand happens to reach; finding a copy of the assembly instructions on the company's web site... the anticipation of one's desires feels awfully close to true love."

You need to set up your products and services so that they continuously improve your community with ever smarter, ever more sustainable solutions.

Or as Douglas Rushkoff says, "A real brand relationship is like a subscription to a path of innovation."

I like that a lot. Subscribing to a path of innovation. Sustainable solutions for the long haul.

Douglas Rushkoff's web site

First post discussing "Get Back In The Box" was Jan. 19, 2007

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