For Great Innovation Do Not Follow the Money

Both Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki, doyens of entrepreneurship, agree that great innovation is seldom achieved by pursuing revenue streams. Nor does Peter Drucker centre on money in his guide to the practice of innovation. Advice that rubs against any corporate managers grain (mine included); what business manager is comfortable without his trusty profit and loss spreadsheet ?

The hunt for a disruptive advantage on the market has no easy financial guide. Seth’s view is that the pursuit of money is at the expense of your innovative drive

pioneers are almost never in it for the money. The smart ones figure out how to take a remarkable innovation and turn it into a living (or a bigger than big payout) but not the other way around. I think the reason is pretty obvious: when you try to make a profit from your innovation, you stop innovating too soon. You take the short payout because it’s too hard to stick around for the later one.

Guy cites the pursuit of meaning, and not the pursuit of money, as guiding light in your innovation hunt.

My experience is that innovation hunting requires an artist’s approach to the market, services and products; a total obsession of the subject matter at hand. Like great pianists or painters, the innovator must have talent & training in the art form in question. Most corporate managers have neither the time nor the patience for the learning curve involved.

Denizens of this creative innovator class have, in my experience, different culture and value systems from that found among professional managers. And, in spite initial protests, the MBAs I recruit accept that the creative staff are more prolific and bountiful in launching succesful services.

The irony is that as soon as you execute your idea, you commit to customers, you have salaries to pay, it is all about the cash flow and quality of service. Then financial spreadsheet skills, administrating, and the ability to squeeze the lemon come to the fore.

Nowadays, good corporate management and creative innovation go hand in hand. Successful company cultures, like Google’s, have to accomodate the two contrasting approaches.