Pioneering is lethal
In 2001, Gerard J. Tellis and Peter N. Golder wrote an interesting book: “Will and Vision”. They systematically examined the relationship between attaining long-term market leadership and being the innovative pioneer. They did so in a wide range of markets, from chewing gum to the Internet. Tellis and Golder found that only 9 percent of pioneers end up as the final winners in a market. Let me give some examples. Gillette didn’t pioneer the safety razor; Star did. Polaroid didn’t pioneer the instant camera; Dubroni did. Microsoft didn’t pioneer the personal computer spreadsheet; VisiCorp did. Amazon didn’t pioneer online bookselling and AOL didn’t pioneer online Internet service. The authors of “Will and Vision” also concluded that 64 percent of all pioneers failed outright. So it seems that pioneering innovation is good for society but statistically lethal for the individual pioneer…
It may be a safer choice to be innovative enough to be successful – not to be the most innovative. Think about it: each business environment has a level of “threshold innovation” that companies within that environment need to meet to be a contender in the game. Some industries, such as airlines, have a low threshold; whereas industries such as biotechnology command a high threshold.
If companies fail to meet the innovation threshold of their industry, they can never win. However, once a company is above the threshold, especially in a highly turbulent environment, being more innovative does not seem to matter much. Once a company meets the threshold of innovation necessary for survival and success in a given environment, it needs a mixture of other elements to become a winner in its industry: a mix of creativity and discipline. Take Apple as an example. Once upon a time the company was a disaster, but Steve Jobs turned it into a winner by combining creativity and discipline.
Latest articles by Filip
- The power of reversible decisions
- Leaders should be genius spotters
- Unintended consequences
- Prepare for pre-flight quarantine
- Bias for action
- Dare to differ
- Be like bamboo
- Uncovering new forms of value
- The case for courage
- The Backwards Law
- Inspiring people with obvious insights
- You are the first domino
- Drive your brain in reverse
- Reidentify your identity
- Define your turn-around time
- Be like water
- Audit your social circle
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- The speed of Genghis Khan
- Celebrate wrong decisions
- Our obligation to imagine
- The difference between amateurs and professionals
- Corporate athletes believe in periodization
- Pioneering is lethal
- What we can learn from the mission to Pluto
- Build a starfish organisation
- Manson’s Law of Avoidance
- Think probabilistically
- Enlightening questions
- Live on death ground
- Build margins everywhere
- The new storytelling
- Be fascinating
- Forget the brand, think categories
- Time management versus time alignment
- Creating a memory of the future
- Spotting talent that whispers
- Problem-solving for the Apollo 11 mission
- Innovative thinking by using adjectives
- Doing right and doing good is not the same
- What you aim at determines what you see
- How survivor bias distorts reality
- Act like a victorious lobster
- Only the paranoid survive
- Different is better than better
- How to avoid narrow-framed decision taking?
- A message to today’s young generation
- What can companies learn from cities?
- Are you suffering from the Concorde Syndrome?
- The backward way of addressing a performance problem
- Apply the 80/20 rule in multiple ways
- Act on lead measures to reach your goal
- Are you an architect of moments that matter?
- The power of working with constraints
- Are there enough Tarahumaras in your team?
- Apply the Pareto Principle to leadership
- Create a dragonfly vision