February 2015

The old saying goes “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door”…implying that all you have to do is find a better way of doing something and you’ll be a successful innovator.

Not true
Lots of better solutions fail everyday and they fail for two basic reasons: #1 – They aren’t really solutions. #2 – The marketing focuses on the “new and shiny” and neglects the customer’s needs.


may_nitwittery05Do you really want to trap mice?

Of course you don’t. The problem is NOT that you need to catch the little critters. The problem is that you don’t want them in your house at all. A truly better solution is the one that keeps the mice out in the first place. A cat, for instance, or a patch in the wall, or mouse repellant, or mouse poison are all better solutions for keeping the mice out.

True innovation gets to the root of the problem and offers a solution that is more than new and improved. innovationIt looks at the problem from a different perspective and offers something that makes the jobs easier, faster, better, cheaper, or whatever matters most to the end user.

If you want to innovate in your business, you have to start with your customer’s problems. Understand them, solve them and you will find innovation. Then and only then, are you ready to go to market.

We’ll talk about how you market that innovation next time.

PS. If you really want to trap a mouse, you just can’t beat the old-fashioned, spring-loaded board with a piece of cheese.


No doubt about it, innovation is the buzzword of the decade, maybe the century. From Amazon to Zappos, innovation abounds and companies strive to emulate, replicate, and instigate it. The latest, disturbing trend is the Department of Innovation and the inevitable VP of Innovation. There are 7628 listings on Indeed.com that include the word “innovation” in the title or job description. Likewise, Linkedin.com.

What are these people thinking?

“We neInnovation-Cafe-Blog-headered it. We don’t know what it is, but we gotta have it so let’s put somebody in charge of it.” I’ve heard it more times than I can count and I am convinced this may be the absolute fastest way to go out of business. An entire company will sit around waiting for the “VP of I” to hand down insights and revelations. Not even Steve Jobs could handle that kind of pressure. The greatest, most innovative companies are not led by  “innovators”. They are led by people who inspire innovation while demanding excellence and focus.

The truth about innovation.

Innovation doesn’t come from a department, and rarely does it spring from a single person. It comes from a commitment to problem-solving. Companies that are committed to solving their customers’ problems always find ways to innovate, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose. The point is, they are always looking for opportunities to innovate. 3M and Proctor and Gamble rarely make the headlines, but they get it, and that’s why they’ve excelled as long as they have.

It has to be in your culture.

So, don’t tell your team that you’ve decided to become an innovation organization. Instead, get everyone to start identifying and solving customer problems all the time. Create a culture of innovation. (Just don’t call it that.) The ideas will flow, the solutions will come, and your customers will recognize and reward the effort.