What's the best way to achieve innovation?
Maybe your mental picture is of a brilliant scientist experimenting in his lab until he figures out the elusive formula, then yells "Eureka!"
Or maybe you imagine a group of hipsters (in San Francisco or Brooklyn) huddled around a room-sized whiteboard. One bearded guy draws a spaghetti diagram of a new process. "That's it!" the others exclaim, then rush to text their venture capital firm for funding.
Neither concept works, according to comedian Jerry Seinfeld. In fact, Seinfeld believes that the key to true innovation can be expressed in just five words: "What am I really sick of?"
Simple, Seinfeld replied. He asked the question: "What am I really sick of?"
"For me, (I was sick of )talk shows where music plays, somebody walks out to a desk, shakes hands with the host, and sits down. 'How are you?' 'You look great.' I'm also sick of people who are really there to sell their show or product."
Comedians in Cars was Seinfeld's idea of how to fix the thing he hated by creating a talk show that isn't a show and doesn't contain a couch, a pitch or empty chatter.
But in case you think Seinfeld's approach is unique, let's turn to someone whose whole focus is helping companies innovate: Mike Maddock, the founding partner and CEO of Maddock Douglas, an innovation consulting firm.
Maddock's version of "What am I really sick of?" is this (also five-word) phrase: "Embrace the hate to innovate."
For example, if you're in the healthcare business, explore what people hate about their experiences. "Show of hands--who hates: going to hospitals; getting eight statements for every medical procedure; the fact that doctors make you wait...and wait--those drafty gowns that reveal your butt, the ridiculous disclaimers attached to every pill, etc.," said Maddock.
The point is that those who hate something about your product or service are practically begging for an alternative.
Explained Maddock: "That means that someone who can deliver a better solution will steal away your customers as soon as they do. If you ignore the haters, you are ignoring your biggest Achilles' heel."
In other words, according to Maddock, "haters will point you to new products, services and business models that your loyal and expert customers would never consider. For example, true environmentalists probably don't drive V-8 trucks that suck gas, but they certainly could help transportation companies think up a new model that promotes car-sharing like Zipcar."
To achieve breakthrough innovation, stop chasing the next exciting shiny big idea. Instead, start whining (and let your customers let out all their complaints) to address things that people really hate.
And that's no yada yada yada.