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Is Innovation A Commodity?

Jun 1, 2018 6:26:00 PM / by Travis Jacobs

compared to

Let's see who could we ask ....

Blockbuster .... Netflix

Amazon ... Borders

Uber .... Yellow Taxi Cabs

Amazon ... Brick & Mortar Retail

ULA ... SpaceX

GM, Ford, Chrysler ... Tesla

Innovation is everywhere ... if you don't innovate then someone else will.

Take GE for example, founded in 1892 ... look at all the troubles GE is currently experiencing, in the last 12 moths the value of the Stock has been cut in half according to CNBC

The thing I find incredibly interesting is that top executives pay lip service to innovation, Wall Street always talks about innovation but they don't understand shit about innovation ... not really. If you a CEO or senior executive I'm talking straight to you ... yes ...YOU!

I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about ...


wile e coyote


Wile E Coyote, the CEO of ACME Inc, announces the "new strategy". He pulls a budget and a schedule out of his ass and decrees it be law and sets it in stone .... his first three mistakes.


budget trolls


Then he announces the "new plan" like a dictator and rules his minions like one ... his next two mistakes.

The next step is to staff up ... so he outsources to a "cheaper location" and hires a bunch of minions to complete the task and carry out "his vision" ... his next two mistakes.




So now he puts a incompetent "yes man" in charge to manage the project and control the minions. His next mistake ...

They fall behind "schedule" ... "according to plan" .... so he hires more minions ... "we're behind schedule" ... "we need to catch up" ... If one woman can make a baby in 9 months, then surely 9 woman can make a baby in 30 days ... I call this the pregnant woman theory ... another mistake ...


pregnant woman theory


Due to budget restrictions we bought the absolute cheapest tools we could find ... but we only had enough money to buy half as many as we needed so you are going to have to share ... one tool for two minions. Another mistake

As soon as the slightest little problem arises ... the CEO or senior executive starts yelling and blaming the victim ... as you know shit rolls down hill. The Senior executive yells at the incompetent yes man ... who in turn yells at the minions ... remember ... accountability is a word the leader uses right before the scapegoating begins ... It's good to be the leader

It's always someone else's fault ... blame bad luck ... blame the last person who quit or was fired ... blame everyone and everything else and NEVER take personal responsibility for anything.


teds fault


So now the project is way behind schedule and way over budget .... so the CEO calls in a "consultant" to "fix" the problem.

We can't compete against competitor X ...

Here is a typical story of a project of this type that has gone sideways ...

Alpha Company And Bravo Company Decided To Engage In A Boat Race. Both Teams Practiced Hard And Long To Reach Their Peak Performance Levels. On The Big Day Both Teams Were Ready To Win. 

Bravo Team Won By A Mile. Alpha Team Was Discouraged By The Loss And Morale Plummeted. Management Decided That The Reason For The Crushing Defeat Had To Be Found, So A Consulting Firm Was Hired To Investigate The Problem And Recommend Corrective Action. 

The Consultant's Finding: 

Bravo Team Had Eight People Rowing And One Person Steering. 

Alpha Team Had One Person Rowing And Eight People Steering. 

After A Year Of Study And Millions Spent Analyzing The Problem, The Consultant Firm Concluded That Too Many People Were Steering And Not Enough Were Rowing On Alpha Team. 

So As Race Day Neared Again The Following Year, Alpha Team's Management Structure Was Completely Reorganized. 

The New Structure: 

Four Steering Managers, Three Area Steering Managers, And A New Performance Review System For The Person Rowing The Boat To Provide A Work Incentive. 

The Next Year, Bravo Team Won By Two Miles!!! 

Humiliated, Alpha Team Laid Off The Rower For Poor Performance And Gave The Managers A Bonus For Discovering The Problem.

We're behind schedule and over budget, we're going to sit here in this meeting room until we figure out "what the problem" is ... no one leaves until we get to the bottom of this.

At this point all the problems have accumulated and have created an avalanche of destruction....




Let's look at this another way.

A beloved family member has just been diagnosed with a life threatening illness. What do you do?

Do you find the cheapest doctor in a land far far away because it's "cheaper" ... or "more cost effective" ... Do you tell the surgeon that he can only use the cheapest tools he can buy off eBay due to "budget considerations" ... Due you tell the surgeon exactly how to do his job ... where to cut ... what tool to use ... "that's too expensive" .... "we can't afford that" you say ...

You can give a monkey a scalpel, but that doesn't make him a surgeon.




You don't understand innovation ... not really ... just like you don't understand real leadership.

Now you are probably thinking this guy is an asshole and completely full of shit!! That is your bruised ego talking ... denial and anger are the two most common responses.

Go for a run ... go to the gym ... go beat the hell out of a punching bag for an hour ... have a glass of scotch ... read it again and then tell me i'm full of shit. Better yet ... look at a company that your very familiar with but don't hold a leadership position in .... can you see any of these characteristics ... problems ... traits .... mistakes ...

Now do you still think I'm full of shit? I'm still an asshole of course ... have some more Scotch ...

A commodity is a race to the bottom .... who ever has the cheapest price wins .... the cheaper the better ... assuming the quality is the same ... doesn't matter how much it costs ... it always is too expensive ... Bob is selling widgets for $10 ... That's too expensive ... Bill is selling the same widget for $8 .... Tim is selling that widget for $5. At some point there is a diminishing return.

Have you ever bought an "expensive product" and the first or second time you use it ... it breaks? How do you feel when that happens? What do you say? Right before you throw it in the trash or return it to the store ... if you can. Have you ever bought a brand new car off the lot and within the first few days you have major problems with the engine or transmission ?? How mad are you at that point? Just think how your customers feel after going through an experience like that ...

Product quality matters always ...




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Topics: Product Development, Product Design, Project Management, Leadership, Engineering, Simulation, Management, Communication, SmallBusiness, Design, StartUps, Innovation

Travis Jacobs

Written by Travis Jacobs

Travis is the president of JA Simulations, a product design & development firm in Denver Colorado. We help clients solve problems & get to market faster with innovative & high quality products

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