Execution After Innovation

May 31, 2013
kids playing in a trampoline park

I read an interesting blog by NY Times contributor Cliff Oxford @W_CliffOxford that one of our developers, Harry Berman recommended. If you have time, you should check it out http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/19/why-innovate-or-die-is-a-lie/. Cliff is a successful entrepreneur and makes a few good points in this blog about how important it is for fast growth businesses to focus on execution after innovation. He discusses the discipline of saying “no” to good ideas that might distract from the work needed to deliver on the promise of your existing innovation.

Oxford drops a great Steve Jobs quote, and one I’d heard before but forgotten. “I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” Apple is of course the classic example of a company who decided to focus on making a relatively small suite of products really, really good. Apparently they’ve been equally innovative in their masterful tax dodge but I digress. It does get me thinking of the disproportionate attention given to great innovation in business when the realization of that great product in the market is wholly dependent on the rather unsexy business of sound marketing, consistent sales and relationship building. Volano faces these questions daily in our pursuit of innovative product development and sales execution.

For me, this idea of pulling back the reins on innovation, or at least offering equal attention to the execution phase of your business development sparks a larger philosophical discussion on where we put our time in life and how that translates into “value.” In business, revenue growth is a good benchmark for this balance. Life is harder to quantify. If we are surrounded by so many options and distractions (ever watch a 3 year old with a tablet?), we tend to spend more time doing lots of things and less time doing any one thing well. This might be a strained business life metaphor but I like that Oxford talks about the discipline involved in scaling back innovation and tuning down good ideas to focus on delivering on the old ones. His example of Skyzone (when did 28 year old kids get this wise?) is apt.

Have you ever been proud of turning down a great idea? Can the absence of that innovation manifest in the delivery of another one you chose to focus on?