Aiming for Goldilocks-level innovation

“We want to reinvent, but we sure … don’t want to reinvent the wheel.” – Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal.

That line really struck me from this Fast Company article “The Future of Retail in the Age of Amazon.”

It reminded me of my friend Hideshi Hamaguchi‘s analysis of innovative products in terms of new and known behavior and value.

Hideshi explained that creating a product that allowed users to capture new value from known behaviors is a great way to make something attractive and comprehensible for the market. Making something that enables users to capture known forms of value using new (hopefully simpler) forms of behavior is good too. But when you’re innovating in terms of both behavior required and the form of value that comes from it – that’s going to be a tough sell.

I made a crude visual representation of that here. Hideshi’s would be much more attractive, I’m sure. In this case Green certainly doesn’t mean “go.” It just means, this is the easiest path to go to market. The yellow quadrants are probably the smartest way to successfully innovate.

This was a big struggle in building Little Bird, before it was acquired by Sprinklr last year. We were in that top right red quadrant. We were asking users to set up workflow systems to regularly check in on and engage with content highlights from high-impact people, on any topic, not filtered by keyword, in order to find key opportunities in a cloud of conversation to co-create value as a part of. That’s pretty awesome, but for most people it’s new behavior to capture new value.

Thankfully, now that we’re part of Sprinklr, the data we surface is much more easily actionable through more familiar behavior and delivers more familiar value.

One of the mistakes I made was building in that top right corner. The company could have been much more commercially compelling on its own if we’d succeeded in moving toward the more-popularly known axis in one direction or another. We knew this, I was just stubborn. )And it’s much easier said than done – we certainly tried.) I’m stubborn in large part because I am motivated more than anything else by awe, and the abundance of opportunities I personally have always been able to create with the behavior and value exactly as we delivered it was (and is) something I’m in awe of. In the future I’ll team up, with greater self-awareness all around, with settlers I can pass the ball to. That would probably be necessary but not sufficient.

Word to the wise!