Justin Cannon

Can Copying be Innovative?

Yes in part it's essential and your probaly copying without even knowing it, even when your being "revolutionary" more on that word in a minute.

Randy Komisar from Kleiner Perkins now KPCB wrote a seminal book called Getting to Plan B where he challenges the notion that all innovation comes from total blue sky thinking. He tersely once said “the next time he hears the word revolutionary in a pitch he is going to walk out” such is his belief that all innovation leans on behaviors that consumers or markets have already proven to work, things he calls Analogs as opposed to things that have been tried before and failed to been taken up, Antilogs.

In his mind the pathway to innovation is to clearly outline the Analogs & Antilogs and then do the critical thing of documenting the unknowns between you and your idea working.

There is one last and ultimately critical step and that is the construction of a robust testing framework to prove out the unknowns one way or the other and step by step toggle yourself to that hot spot or rubbish bin.

All business decision makers when trying new things need to channel the renaissance woman/man in them and delve into some science, art & instinct to make sure the construction of your testing gives you the information you need so you can move quickly to the next stage and limit the time and capital it takes to learn what you need to, on the way to commercial success.

Book Extract:

While the iPod and the iTunes store have no doubt revolutionized how people listen to and approach music — not to mention TV and movies — are they really all that new after all? Consider Sony Corp.’s Walkman: It made music personal and portable back in 1979! By 2000 Sony had sold more than 300 million Walkmen.

Then there was Napster Inc., another analog, whose 26 million users were downloading music one tune at a time (illegally, as the courts eventually decided). But analogs — predecessor companies that are worth mimicking in some way — are only part of the Apple story.

For Apple there were antilogs, too: predecessor companies compared to which you explicitly choose to do things differently, perhaps because some of what they did was unsuccessful. For the iPod and the iTunes store there were several important antilogs. There were MP3 players like the Rio, which sported clunky user interfaces. There were online music stores like MusicNet and Pressplay, whose very limited music selection and limited rights limited their appeal to music lovers.

For Apple, there was one more analog that put all the pieces together, courtesy of The Gillette Co.’s razors and razor blades. Gillette sold razors at low break-even prices and made its money selling the blades. Ingeniously, Apple’s Steve Jobs flipped the model. Jobs’s hypothesis was that people would pay for easy to use, licensed downloadable music and that a business model of high gross margins on the iPod with razor-thin margins in the iTunes store would be profitable while keeping the music industry off his back. Jobs showed how well he understands the value of applying an existing idea to his business:

“Picasso had a saying: he said good artists copy, great artists steal … and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

Randy Komisar: Analogs and Antilogs: Nothing is "Revolutionary"

Randy Komisar: Identifying Leaps of Faith

2.17 Mins

Randy Komisar Full Talk Getting to Plan B

1 hour if your interested :)

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