Category: Innovation

“Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.” – Billy Graham

We talk of vitamins and pain killers.  If you have an idea for a new messaging app to post your selfies, that’s great.  You should go create your tribe and lead them.

But if you could come up with a way to diagnose ebola before symptoms appear, you could change lives across the planet.

We don’t lack good ideas; there are plenty of problems to solve.  What we need is awareness of the problems and innovations to eliminate them.


BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” – Charles H. Duell, US Commisioner of Patents, 1899

There are a few more patents than there were in 1899.  I’m not sure what the sentiment was that led to this comment but there is a point to be made for the innovator and the entrepreneur.

There’s a good chance that the solution to the problem you are trying to solve has been applied in some other context.  One of the more interesting examples is an athletic shoe designer who applied an idea from a suspension bridge to solve a structure to weight problem.

Shoe Bridge Design

Innovation is not necessarily about invention.  Look around you.  Look above, below and around the problem. Get a different perspective.  Ask people outside the problem. You may find someone has probably already done the work for you.

Standing on Desk


BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“All of the best things I did at Apple came from (a) not having money, and (b) not having done it before, ever.” – Steve Wozniak

Doing something that’s never been done provides the creativity.  Not having enough money provides motivation and simplicity.

Together you get innovation.

Sometimes it’s the boundaries that spark the imagination but they also eliminate noise.  If you can’t move right or left, the only way is forward.  Another way of saying it is, the things you can’t change may point the way to the things you can.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘EUREKA! (I found it!)’ but ‘That’s funny…'” – Isaac Asimov

Nylon, sticky notes, the microwave oven, and velcro were all discovered while the inventors were looking for something else.  Perhaps the important questions to ask are “I wonder, what if…, ” or “I wonder why that is…”

This is why we like to say that innovation is not about invention.  Most often, it is about solving a common problem with a unique application of an existing idea.  Rather than viewing experimental failure as an impediment to proving the theory, perhaps it’s better to understand why it failed in the first place.  Then be open to go down the path that opens before you.

In the customer discovery process, this is where pivots come from.  You test a value proposition with customers, typically to find out your original idea does not resonate.  It’s important to understand why because the answer may lead you to a bigger, more important problem to solve.

Thanks to Louisa Rispoli for this quote in her email footer…


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

If you truly have something new and different, it will cause reactions.  Those that have been waiting for your solution to their problem will sing your praises but those who stand to lose something won’t go away quietly. They will fight you because you are taking something from them; their customers, their profits, their reputation.

Expect both extremes.  In fact, if the reaction is a deafening silence, it’s really bad.  It means no one cares enough to praise or vilify your new product.

On the other hand, when you’ve won over everyone, it’s time to think about what’s next.  The copy cats will find you and you will end up competing on price.  Within two years of its introduction, the iPod took over 90 plus percent of the market share for MP3 players after a long run by Sony’s Walkman brand.  Three years after that, the iPhone showed up and nobody talks about the iPod anymore (much less the Walkman).  I believe this was not a surprise to Apple, nor was it an accident.  Shame… I really like my iPod.

When you reach the top, enjoy the accomplishment and celebrate the moment.  But remember, it’s just a moment.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“It’s best to get as many people into one room as possible. Then go somewhere else.” – Jason Fox

Truly creative and innovative people don’t do well in committees and groups where thinking is influenced by the group dynamic.  This brings into doubt the value of group brain storming when important decisions are to be made.

Compromise is important in order for diverse people to live together but I’m not sure it’s vital in innovation and creative problem solving.  Feedback from customers is important, of course, in a reactive sense; not a creative one.

Make time to get away from the noise and think, create, try an idea, capture a thought.  Do it daily.  Capture your thoughts in a notebook or some other repository.  Freely share them for feedback.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“The past is a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.” – Jim Hall

Jim Hall was a pioneer in Jazz Guitar who checked out this week after 85 years on the planet.  He quietly influenced a couple generations of guitarists.  If there was such a thing as a Level 5 musician (Good To Great), Jim would be the prototype.  He knew how to play in the spaces so other band members could stand out and when it was his turn to be out front, it was always with great respect for the listener, the instrument and the music.

The thing about Jim was that he never rested on his past success.  He was always experimenting with what came next; constantly evolving and innovating… pivoting.

Musicians are some of the best entrepreneurs I know.  A perfect combination of the pursuit of a passion with the need to share it with the world.

Thanks for the music Jim!


Blogging Gazzelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Entrepreneurship is NOT normally distributed” – Rob Wiltbank

The statistics on venture investment suggest that 2% or less of startups are “successful”.  But that’s for those actually looking for equity based funding.  The coming of crowd funding is changing that and it’s true that most startups get traction by bootstrapping.

But the fundamental nature of entrepreneurship seems to defy analysis.  Entrepreneurs find a problem in need of a solution and are able to provide that solution to someone who is willing to pay for it.

We have a guy who teaches gun safety.  People come to his classes and have to load their guns by holding them under their arms or in worse places.  So he invented a folding table specifically designed for that purpose.  He had a few made and now others are asking for them.  It’s not the next Apple and he likely will not show up in an HBR article.

But he IS an entrepreneur!

Rob Wiltbank spoke at the 2013 SSTI Conference in Portland

“A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one.” – Henry Ford

Henry Ford may not have invented the automobile but he certainly did innovate a way to put it in the hands of the masses.  The vision was a car in every driveway.  Until that time, it was a high tech toy for the wealthy.  His innovation was the assembly line and a design that met the MVP, (Minimally Viable Product)… you know, any color you want as long as it’s black.

Of course eventually, the stakes were raised.  As more people owned cars, their expectations for features and comfort increased.  The moral here is you can never stop innovating because eventually competition will catch you.

Entrepreneurs have a knack for finding crappy products or crappy situations and making a better way.  People will always buy what they think is a great product.