"Why Iteration is not Innovation"

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Should you be scared of innovation as a business leader?

When speaking with clients throughout industries, one of the most common hesitations we encounter is some version of “what are the drawbacks of innovation?” Or, “is this innovation right for me”?

‘Innovation’ sounds great as a buzzword or as a philosophical ideal, but the execution and implementation of it is really hard! If you innovate in the wrong direction, or the execution is lacking, it can not only set you back, but cripple your very business. On the flip side, if your competitors see the competitively advantageous innovation and beat you to it, it could equally hamstring your company. So how should you be thinking about innovation in your industry?

The first mover disadvantage

Everyone knows it’s better to be a first mover than a later mover when it comes to transformational technologies. I mean, duh — that’s obvious. If you’re first to market with a great technology or service, you can corner the market before any competitors arise. But what most people don’t realize, or at least don’t think about, is that if you’re too innovative, no one will follow. Or worse yet, no one will use your innovation, rendering it moot.

The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone. It didn’t have the first ‘app store’ in existence. Facebook wasn’t the first social media network, nor was Google the first search engine. Amazon didn’t invent eCommerce, and Netflix didn’t invent streaming media. They weren’t the very first movers in their respective spheres — they were simply the right movers.

These titans took the broad concepts other companies had put forward, perfected them (as much as anything technological can be perfected, anyway), brought to market a superior and innovative product/service, and then executed on it at an incredibly high level.

So despite conventional wisdom dictating that being the first mover is king, being the right kind of mover is far more important.

How to think about innovation if you’re not trying to upend the world order

If you’re truly trying to change the world, being the first on the scene can matter. When you’re not worried about immediate profit and loss concerns for your core business, you can innovate for the sake of innovation. Bitcoin is a great example of this — there wasn’t necessarily a true profit/loss motive behind it as a business instrument. So, if it took almost a decade to catch on, so be it! Satoshi Nakamoto (whoever(s) they are) was trying to create a truly new world order, so innovating on that scale has far fewer immediate drawbacks to an enterprise.

But if you’re in charge of the financial and operational health of an existing business, being that innovative is actually a bad thing.

You can’t frontrun your clients and partners by so much as to alienate them.

We also know, though, that you can’t wait too long once an innovation hits critical mass that you’re left behind. You don’t want to be local newspapers balking at the Internet until it’s too late. In much the same way, you don’t want to wait to digitize your operations until you’re drowning in operational inefficiencies and red ink.

So what’s the right balance?

Clearly there is an optimal balance between being a first mover no one follows, and being the last to the party.

That’s where having a trusted technology partner can make all the difference.

Is artificial intelligence all it’s cracked up to be? Is your company going to build its own neural network to crunch historical customer data?

For almost every company in the country, the answer to that latter question is no. But, if there is a way to improve your company utilizing AI tools and methodology — if you can secure a competitive advantage in doing so — then maybe the answer should be yes. The answer should be yes especially if you can make that advancement without your clients or employees even telling a difference: Your product or service just works better or faster because of it.

This is obviously not confined to artificial intelligence — innovation is taking many forms these days. That said, there are many tools, technologies and methodologies that could benefit your business if conceived of, executed and implemented at a high level.

That’s where we come inreach out to us today, and see how we can make the right kind of innovation work for you.


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Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis is a veteran entrepreneur and founder of Dallas-based digital product studio ENO8. Jeff founded ENO8 to empower companies of all sizes to design, develop and deliver innovative, impactful digital products. With more than 18 years working with early-stage startups, Jeff has a passion for creating and growing new businesses from the ground up, and has honed a unique ability to assist companies with aligning their technology product initiatives with real business outcomes.

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