Talking to Idiots

January 18, 2007 · Posted in innovation, strategy 

One of the traits of a great innovation is how obvious it appears once you’ve seen it. Unfortunately a lot of frustration can occur trying to explain the innovation to people who haven’t yet grasped the concept. Often it feels like you are trying to explain the innovation to an idiot. While this might be the case, if your innovation depends on explaining it to idiots you have a serious problem. Chances are that your idea will not become an innovation very soon if you can’t explain it to investors and it definitely won’t if you can’t explain it to customers.

How can you tell if the problem is with the way you are explaining it or if you really are just talking to an idiot? If the person you are talking to is an idiot, move on. But if they aren’t an idiot you are left with two other possibilities. The first is you aren’t explaining it very well. That can be easily fixed. The second is a warning sign that your idea won’t catch on. If your idea is too far ahead of a customer’s demand they won’t understand it. If that is the case you will waste a lot of time and money trying to bring it to market.

In communication sciences we have a term for this, its called rupture. Two people might be using similar or even the exact same words but using different definitions or making assumptions that are radically different. The meaning of the message gets lost in transmission. The context is as important as the code of any communication.

Because communication is not occurring it’s basically impossible to figure out the problem and correct it.

That is painfully frustrating. You say one thing and the other person reacts in a way that makes no sense to you. And they get angry at you because you are saying things that seem to make no sense or even contradict their deeply held beliefs. The longer that conversation continues the worse it gets.

There are two signs of an idiot. Ask the person to explain their point. Pay attention to self contradictory statements. That means that something they said makes something else they said false. That removes the possibility of a different base of information. But if you’ve found an apparent self contradictory statement don’t jump to conclusions, you might be missing some or have incorrect information. Just because you aren’t following the path doesn’t mean they haven’t thought it out. You need to find out how they arrived to the conclusion they have. This is often an extremely valuable source for innovations.

If a person uses statements such as “must, should, have to, need to, ought, can’t”? that is a warning sign. Those are value based statements. Anytime those types of words are used there is as “in order to”? attached. If they don’t directly tell you what goal is trying to be achieved then you need to ask. The “should”? type statements always reference a value. If the person doesn’t know the goal or reason for the should then they are either an idiot or will act like an idiot and it’s not worth your time to talk to them. You won’t get anywhere because their illogical emotional system is stopping them from accepting what you are saying. If they can tell you then you just might find some extremely valuable innovation information.

Explaining new ideas can be very difficult. To avoid the complexity I use a completely different method of innovation from the brainstorming / creativity method. See if you brainstorm you might come up with a great idea but it’s disconnected from the current situation. This is why most innovations are rejected by managers. It’s like taking a math test and not showing your work. You won’t get any credit for partial answers.

The OutCompete Predictive Innovation Method gets around this problem by using a totally systematic approach that covers ALL the possibilities. Since you can see each step and it covers all the possible options it helps you find the next logical step. This helps you reach customers more easily and eliminates the risk and confusion for investor and managers.

These are the steps of the OutCompete Method:

  1. Describe the desired goal
  2. Break the goal into process components
  3. Choose a step to improve
  4. Fill out the 15 alternatives grid for the goal
  5. Fill out the 15 alternatives grid for step to improve
  6. Combine the two of the 15 alternatives grid to get the 225 element solution grid
  7. List benefits for each solution
  8. Group similar alternatives
  9. Refine similarities to a core concept
  10. Combine benefits into new opportunities
  11. Score each opportunity
  12. Rank the opportunities to create innovation strategy map

No need for goofy creativity exercises or market gurus. Just use the information you all ready know to go through the steps. You will get dozens of real innovation opportunities you can act on today. And you will have a clear strategy to deal with competition and proactively deal with changes.

If your original idea is too far ahead of the customer the OutCompete method will show you that and reveal all the steps between. This is amazingly valuable. It eliminates the risk plus maximizes the reward.

You can roll out each new product at just the right time to satisfy the customers emerging demand. And because you know in advance you have plenty of time to develop the next innovation. Furthermore you get a literal map of future innovation. Use the map to build your innovation into a family of related products and services so to the market it’s disruptive but to you it’s just an incremental change.

If you’ve found this helpful or have suggestions to improve this blog please tell me so. Contact Mark Proffitt