A World of Perfectionists

There are two types of forward progress:

1. Incremental progress (one-step-at-a-time)
2. Innovative progress (one-giant-leap forward)

In the world we live in today there are also two types of people.
- Those that work towards efficiency and “sucking” the last inch of profits out of a well. They are specialists at incremental change. These people are Incrementalists.
- Those that look for a breakthrough way forward, solve an inherent problem, and look for ways to remove tasks. These people are Innovators.

Innovators are ever more powerful, ever more efficient and that much smarter than Incrementalists.

…think of the 80/20 rule…

An Innovator knows that it takes only 20% energy to create 80% of something. They are smart enough to realise that this is the part that people notice. Then, they toss it off to the Incrementalists who try ever so hard to take the 80% to 100%, with all the hard work and effort.

I like to think of Innovators as “breathing the life into something”. Whilst, Incrementalists are merely “survivalists” keeping the breath going.

The question remains…Who do you want to be?

A recent toothbrush advertisement brought this thought to the forefront of my mind. I find it odd that in 2012 we are still “innovating” with toothbrushes. Don’t you?

There are adverts every day about new modifications of products. Modifications that had millions – if not hundreds of millions – of dollars sunk into them. Modifications that “improve” a product so minutely it makes NO SENSE to have spent all that money on R&D. And yet, out come the advertisements promoting this “NEW GREAT PRODUCT”.

Are we becoming a world of perfectionists? Are we insanely pursuing the perfect product at all expense (monetarily, and environmentally)? Are we clinically OCD; so much so that we demand and expect that our products are perfect?

I think we are a world of perfectionists.

Is this perhaps the reason for the lack of real growth in the world? We sink all of our money into products that already exist (problem has already been solved) in order to perfect the solution. And yet, we spend little attention and money on real problems and real solutions…Real INNOVATION.

Perhaps if we stop being perfectionists and consider becoming Innovators we will achieve real growth and prosperity.

Just a thought that crossed my mind. Please share your feedback and opinions in the comments below.

5 Comments to “A World of Perfectionists”

[...] yesterdays blog post about a World of Perfectionists, I had a thought: How do we hear about “new” products? 1. Through word-of-mouth. 2. [...]

December 29, 2011 Reply

Hi Justin, i think that most innovation is really incremental change. Eg ipads have been on the cards for 30+ years, we’ve just needed to wait for the tech specs to deliver required performance of all required components in a light weight device. Even the internet was just incremental change from mainframe logic that already enabled email between 100′s terminals… It’s when these little incremental changes add up to something mainstream can see a real purpose for that we get the leap effect.

December 29, 2011 Reply

That’s a fair comment, Reuben. I think perhaps incremental change in a new category can be considered innovative – as that category has not yet fully evolved into a definable thing. However, once a product’s purpose has been achieved – notably the bulk of the problem has been solved – then what use it that we improve the product any further at such an expense?

If there is still an inherent, persistent problem existing (or a new problem arises), I would expect the solution to be termed as incremental innovation.

Perhaps my point needs to be better defined as “incremental perfectionism”. This is where I see little need to sink $$ into something.

What do you think?

December 29, 2011 Reply

Yes i agree there probably is too much money sunk into already good technology… However consider a recent dinner conversation… Why are tv remotes so hard to use for common folks? Using the AV button like its morsecode… Which tv channel button, sky or tv? Why does the play button on dvd remote not start the movie from disc root menu? Do you need a technition to reprogram your learner remote when battery goes flat? These are real issues that ordinary people complain about every day… I think if someone started selling a sky/dvd tv option with 1 easy remote, it’d be a winner….

December 29, 2011 Reply

Interesting example. It’s almost an opportunity to truly innovate and come up with a completely unfounded solution. I won’t propose one here, but I recently attended Auckland’s Tech Startups Meetup where Glen, one of the founders of the Harmony Remote, spoke of how he sought to solve this very problem. The Harmony remote (in it’s early days) had only a few buttons and a small screen and could be programmed quite easily for any TV in the world.

Any buyer or user of the remote could visit the website and receive instructions on how to program the remote for the desired TV. Interestingly, the instructions were given by other Harmony Remote users using crowd-sourcing. This meant that the Harmony remote always had the latest TVs programming instructions available through the website. Plus, it was really simple to use.

I think too many “innovators” seek to apply a solution which replicates something done in the past – either utilising something from another industry, or a past solution, or something else. Instead, perhaps true innovation looks at the problem, why it exists and seeks to understand the problem “above” its existence. Perhaps the problem is not the remote – but rather the way in which the TV is designed for the User (i.e. UX/UI testing needed)?

December 29, 2011 Reply

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