As part of my professional activity I meet quite a few people attempting various kinds of innovation. From engineers with a passion for how things could work better, to marketeers inspired by the seemingly boundless possibilities of new technologies, to operations types focusing on efficiency, to financiers approaching age old financial problems from new angles, they all try to offer something different. Their pursuits and motivations are as diverse as one can imagine. All too often though, they fall in the traps of:
- innovation for the sake of innovation
- innovation without clear boundaries and scope
- innovation based on untested ideas in uncertain markets
It's what I call the "banana sharpener syndrome", i.e. the elaborate engineering of a sophisticated solution to a problem that exists only for the creator of the solution. The name of the syndrome comes from an excellent piece of the Muppet Show embedded below.
At the end of the day there is a lot of creative energy that goes into unnecessary forms of innovation that could be saved and applied to something else if only there were fairly straightforward ways to discriminate between options. Aside from testing concepts and piloting with customers, innovators should also ponder the sustainability of an innovation, a criterion that will grow increasingly important in the years to come. Sutainability is about long term adoption and usage of an innovation; therefore it's about matching innovation to market and making sure the market keeps generating demand. Who needs a banana sharpener?