There’s an old adage which goes “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door”. There’s a lot of business wisdom which focuses on how innovation drives success. It makes sense too if you think about it. If you are selling the best product, naturally you will get the most customers, right? Reality, sadly, does not conform to such simple statements. There are a lot of factors involved in the success of an innovation. If you really have an innovative idea, you don’t have it all, you have only just begun.
An innovative idea is just the start
There are a lot of people with innovative ideas. You’ll meet many people who are new entrepreneurs who will be very passionate about their idea and will love explaining it to you. They will tell you about how their idea is a game-changer and is sure to succeed. The reality is that the innovation is only good if it is applied in the right place and if it is run the right way.
One of the best examples we have of companies innovating and not realizing it comes from the computing industry. Everyone knows about Microsoft and how successful they were. It is easy to think that Google and Apple are bigger but that is only in other arenas. When it comes to computer software and operating systems Microsoft has no competition. They have more than 90% of the global market and have had it for more than 3 decades now. The interesting part is that Microsoft didn’t get their start by innovating.
Microsoft’s first hit in operating systems was MS-DOS, which they did not create; they bought it from another company. They were also lauded for innovating with Windows 3 and by focusing on a visual user interface. They were also lauded for their mouse support and how much better it was to use the computer with a mouse. They were not the first ones to sell either of them.
You can also look at Apple the same way. The iPhone is considered one of the most innovative products out there. The reality is that LG was selling a phone without a keypad almost a year before the iPhone. Android, the operating system, was already being made by a small company. Apple was just the first company to get the smartphone right. Google later bought Android and used it in the right way to succeed.
Why Innovations Fail
Innovations fail for one very simple reason; they need to be what the business is centered around, but they cannot be all that the business is centered around. You have to think of your innovative idea as the engine and your company as the car. Sure, your engine works great, but you need a lot more to make a car work. You need tires, you need good brakes, you need safety for passengers, you need oil to make the engine work, you need proper maintenance of the engine, and much more.
The same is true for business. You do not just need an innovative idea. You need financing to make the idea run, you need smart marketing to make it popular, you need limited liability to make it safe financially, you need a good way for the customers to interact with your idea, and much more.