The absurd side of innovation
We established Hoist to help companies make better products and services. And in today’s world “better” is synonymous with “innovative”. A cult of innovation has become pervasive in management and strategic business thinking: “innovate or die” as Peter Drucker succinctly put it. Interest in innovation has increased for as long as Google has been keeping records.
So, when clients come to us they don’t ask for our help to make better products and services, they ask us to help them create innovative products and services. But one word you don’t see on our website is innovate. And one image you won’t see is of people writing on coloured sticky notes. Drucker’s underlying insight is so simple as to be almost trite: adapt to changes in your market or lose to the competition. But the cult of innovation has transformed this insight into something altogether different. The cult says that every new product, every new service, must be a massively disrupting agent of creative destruction capable of changing the world. We must all be Steve Jobs and our next product must be the iPod (way before the iPhone and a true innovation, in our humble opinion).
The cult has created the absurd situation that the CEO of one of the world’s largest consumer groups proudly declared in 2013 that the launch of peanut butter flavoured Pop-Tarts (at the time a 40-year-old product) was a great innovation. In the following six years the concept of innovation has become even more polluted. In 2019 a senior representative of the same company discussed the company’s focus on “eating occasions…and identifying where there may be gaps and innovating within those spaces”. Which appears to mean getting people to snack between snacks (or “eating occasions”). This isn’t to pick on Pop-Tarts (which we love) or snacks (which we also love).
The point is that what many people think of as innovation (the iPod) is nothing like what most “innovations” deliver (peanut butter Pop-Tarts).
A focus on improvement.
And that’s why you won’t see innovation on the Hoist website. Rather than “innovate or die”, we prefer to think of “improve and prosper”. What we love more than anything else is to make clients’ products and services better. Much better. But without falling into the trap of thinking the only way to do this is to bring back the dinosaurs.
Of course, respond to the market. Of course, launch cool new products. But do it through a process of combining critical data based analysis with powerful visualisations and deep strategic thinking. Create a vivid picture of what the future looks like and use that to frame your strategy, inspire your team, build your product and grow your business. And at Hoist, we are very good at that.
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