Can I Have Six Cans Of Innovation Please?

In my last post I talked about leadership and how there’s not much you can do that’s original.  That really rubbed a few people the wrong way.

One subscriber said, “I come up with new things all the time and then I sit down and create them for my customers.  These are my products that I’m creating.”

Another said, “In my business my clients tell us all the time how unique we are and that they keep coming back because we do things differently.”

While I always appreciate the feedback, sometimes it’s just wrong.  I’m not really going to sugar coat it, people have a right to have an incorrect opinion.  Neither of these people were artists, so their “creations” weren’t inspired or entirely bespoke things.

The Difference Between Innovation And Originality

They are confusing innovation and originality.  I see this a fair bit with people who are trying to move their business online.  They think that there’s something special about what they do and they want to customize software and systems to suit their “original” way of doing things.

In about 99% of those cases, you can actually deliver the same result using standard tools and software.  That in and of itself tells you that the problem has been solved before by someone else.

I use the examples of Uber and AirBnB when I talk about originality and innovation because they tend to be companies that people view as having created things that are really unique.

Uber didn’t “create” anything.  They wrote an application that allowed people to more efficiently book hire cars with a streamlined payment process.  They found a highly regulated industry that had built in cost inefficiencies where the quality of customer service was very low.  Uber then created systems that allowed them to lift the quality of service, dramatically improve customer experience, simplify the end to end process and reduced administrative, middle man overheads.

There’s nothing original about that.  Dell did the same thing to the PC industry twenty years ago.  Uber, like Dell before them, were innovators that moved quickly.  The taxi industry around the world was just badly regulated by local governments that saw it as a cash cow and at the same time didn’t care about the quality of the customer experience.  Uber made it easier to book, initially they focused on higher quality hire cars which for a similar price delivered a better, more professional customer experience.  They turned a mundane thing, taking a taxi, into a luxury experience while keeping costs affordable.

Understanding True Innovation

AirBnb are very similar.  Hotels had a lock on the accommodation market and the internet solidified their position.  The experience of booking a hotel online was painful and often times really expensive.  Small accommodation owners, the traditional “bed and breakfast” type short term rentals simply didn’t have an effective means to make their inventory available to a wider audience.

When AirBnB came along, they became the defacto booking and business engine for small accommodation owners.  It became easy and dare I say, even fun to use AirBnB to book accommodation as a customer.  Their user experience was designed with making it simple to find the place you want to stay in mind and it also easily allows you to share your experience with other potential guests.

Conversely, the hotel websites and booking systems were (and still are) designed around an antiquated model that adds nothing to the experience.  When booking a hotel online, you follow their process and do it their way.  Booking a room on a hotel site is the equivalent of flossing your teeth – you have to do it, it’s perfunctory and mundane, so you’re happy when it’s over.

On the other hand, AirBnB is designed to help you explore your destination to find a place that suits where you want to stay.  They’ve made booking your place to stay part of the lead up to the trip itself.

Companies like Uber and AirBnB are not really making anything original, they are innovators.  They innovate with customer experience, their business processes and they change market dynamics.  Their entire business is about taking something that’s already there in the market, is underserved for some reason and then delivering the outcome in a better, more innovative way to the customer.

So how does this relate to your business?

I say you should stop trying so desperately to be original.  That’s hard and often times not very useful.  Depending on where and when you grew up, you may or may not remember the Flowbee.  For those of you who don’t remember, it was a vacuum cleaner attachment for cutting hair.  Basically you ran this device over your head, it sucked and cut your hair without the mess of loose hair falling everywhere.  Best of all you could do it from the comfort of your own home.

The Flowbee was an original idea.  The creator had a patent and everything.  It was just a really stupid concept.

Ruthless Focus On Customer Experience

Rather than focusing on originality so much, be ruthless in your pursuit of delivering a higher quality service and experience to your customers.  Aim to delight them with a better outcome than anyone else.  Spend your effort becoming more efficient than your competitors.  Work at making the entire customer engagement more enjoyable and memorable.  Find ways to cut out expenses that are driving up your costs, eroding your margins and costing your customers more money.  Become a premium service at a price point that makes what you do exceptional value for money.

Be an innovator in your market, that’s a much better business proposition than trying to sit there and create unique snowflakes.

Speaking of special snowflakes, that’s a great way to describe my subscribers to the Casual Marketer Monthly Newsletter you can join their ranks by clicking the big button below.  And on of our special snowflake subscribers to the Casual Marketer Newsletter Subscriber, Barry Moore, has a great podcast at his Active Marketer site.  It’s even greater now as I’ve appeared as a guest so you should click here to listen that interview.

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