While several industry watchers bemoan the lack of innovation in technology today, Guy Kawasaki knows innovation when he sees it.
The former Apple software evangelist is managing director at venture capital firm Garage Technology Ventures and has written several books including, The Art of the Start and How to Drive Your Competition Crazy. Kawasaki this week turned up at CA World 2007 in Las Vegas to deliver a keynote address on the art of innovation.
"Don't get me wrong; I have made many mistakes in my career," Kawasaki told attendees. But when considering company pitches from start-ups, Kawasaki says he refers to his list of 10 criteria for innovation, some of which can be put to use when selecting vendors and technologies.
1. Motivated to do good
Kawasaki said an innovative technology, product or company is motivated by "the desire to make meaning." He explained that innovation is about wanting to create something that could change the world in a positive way. Simply put, innovation is not about wanting to make money. "If the goal is only to make money, then you will not succeed," he said. "Innovation is about perpetuating good and eliminating bad and making meaning with your product."
2. Choosing a mantra
Any innovative company needs a mantra, he said, which should be limited to a few words describing the goal of the company and not represent a 60-word mission statement. For instance, Kawasaki pointed to Nike's mantra -- "authentic athletic performance" -- as a great example of a mantra that every employee in the company can easily refer to and understand as the company's goal. Other good examples included FedEx's "peace of mind" and eBay's "democratize commerce," Kawasaki said.
3. Jump the curve
Any innovation will not be an improvement to an existing technology, at least not unless it "jumps the curve." By jumping the curve, Kawasaki said that companies plan to do 10 times better than in the past and not plan to improve products by 10%. One example he cited involved people who made money cutting and delivering ice in the 1800s. The jumped curve would be ice-making factories and the next level would be individual ice factories or refrigerators in consumer homes. While the method of delivering ice evolved by jumping curves, he said, the people cutting ice didn't ultimately become refrigerator manufacturers. "Most companies do not jump the curve; Â they stay on the same curve and seek incremental improvements," Kawasaki said. "There is a fear among companies in jumping the curve, but true innovation is about doing things 10 times better."
4. Learn DICEE
DICEE broken down means depth, intelligence, complete, elegant and emotive. This acronym represents the five elements Kawasaki identifies in innovative products, technologies and companies. Depth means that an innovative product provides multiple functions.
For instance, Kawasaki pointed to the Reef Fanning sandal, which both protects the feet but also includes a bit of metal to open beers on the sole. Next, innovation requires intelligence. Third, an innovative approach is complete in its source code, physical form factor, digital download and more. Next up is elegant. Kawasaki said an innovative product will also be elegant in that it is clear how to use it and easy to start enjoying its features, such as Apple's iPod. And last, innovative technologies and products are emotive -- meaning they make customers feel something. "Think of Harley Davidson, people either love it or hate it, there isn't a lot of indifference to their product," he said.
5. It's OK not to be perfect
Kawasaki said while many believe in perfection, the road to innovative is paved with "crappiness."
"Looking back at the first Mac we shipped, this product was crappy. It costs US$2,500 with 128KB of RAM and 400KB floppy drive," he said. "But if we didn't put it out we would not have jumped the curve from MS-DOS to Macintosh."
One differentiator between poor products and innovation is that after the first release, innovators must realize their revolutionary product will require upgrades and much more work. "But if you wait for the perfect world when everything is debugged, then innovation will pass you by," he said.