My colleague, Bill O'Connor, and I work on Autodesk innovation efforts. For example, we are part of a team that created our Autodesk Innovation Genome. The other day, Bill shared this article from 2004 (when 3-bladed razors were cutting edge) with me. It has NSFW language, but this Onion story is very funny.
Though The Onion article was published in jest, it does contain some truths about innovation.
"Sure, we could go to four blades next, like the competition."
Innovation requires competitive separation. You need to do something that your competitors can or will not do.
"We got here by taking chances."
Innovators have to be willing to fail. You can't play it safe.
"They don't tell me what to invent — I tell them."
Innovation requires passion. It's not easy.
"You're taking the "safety" part of "safety razor" too literally, grandma."In his TEDx Berkeley talk on "The New Rules of Innovation," our CEO, Carl Bass, said that to innovate, you've got to be willing to break some rules.
"The day I shadow a penny-ante outfit like Bic is the day I leave the razor game for good, and that won't happen until the day I die!"
There are two types of companies: industry leaders and fast followers. Autodesk made the conscious decision to stop being a fast follower decades ago.
"Five blades, two strips, and make the second one lather. You heard me — the second strip lathers."
Outlandish! How could someone come up with such an idea? Perhaps if one used the Autodesk Innovation Genome?
At Autodesk, we believe that an innovation is different from an invention. Not every invention is an innovation. You can't just go invent something new for the sake of inventing something. An innovation is something new or different that has significant impact. It has to make a difference to be an innovation. The Pet Rock was an invention. The iPhone was an innovation. So five blades may be catchy now but will soon be topped by the company that makes a seven blade razor. There has to be a significant benefit from the fifth blade for it to truly be an innovation.
Furthermore, at Autodesk, we also believe that innovation requires a:
- Toolset — tools that can help with innovation (e.g., Autodesk Innovation Genome)
- Skillset — skills that can help with innovation (e.g., digging deeper to gain true insight — the fifth blade adds no real value)
- Mindset — a willingness to experiment and fascinate (e.g., shoot for breakthrough innovations instead of sticking with the status quo — the razor strip lathers)
The funny thing about an innovation mindset it that achieving it requires no time or money, because it’s free, and you can do it instantly. What it does require is tremendous amounts of three things that are more valuable than time or money and more rare:
- energy, and
Think about it: you can buy an innovation toolset; and you can hire or train for an innovation skillset; but an innovation mindset? For that, well, you have to do that one yourself. And you really have to adopt an innovation mindset, if you want real innovation. That’s the main reason why there’s so much talk about innovation and so little actual innovation: the rarity of a true innovation mindset. In his presentations on innovation, Bill leaves audiences with a final question: some food for thought. What would your career look like, your team look like, your company or your industry look like, in fact, what would your world look like if you adopted an innovation mindset? This is a great time to find out.
Recognizing that innovation is no joke is alive in the lab.