Robots on the loose, haywire drones, commercial rocket ships to outer space. Today's headlines about innovation often look like something straight out of Star Wars. That's because popular belief tells us that innovation is critical for companies to stay relevant and cutting edge.
But a closer look reveals something surprising: the companies heralded as the "most innovative" haven't innovated much at all. In fact, only a third are tech giants ... the rest are well-oiled machines that have stood the test of time in traditional industries.
That makes me wonder: is there such as a thing as too much innovation?
The Changing Nature of Innovation
Innovation used to mean introducing fresh and creative ideas to an old concept. Now, it means living on the cutting edge of technology and implementing innovation roadmaps into strategy. It's become an imperative to be the first one with the next big idea.
But the pressure to constantly innovate can have serious consequences: in an effort to assume the smartphone throne, Samsung released the Galaxy Note 7 early -- and this infamous mistake cost the company over $3 billion (and some very inflamed customers!).
The innovation race is increasing rapidly in all industries. Unless you're inventing a new form of transportation or putting people on the moon, you're not doing enough. But when companies attempt to change too quickly, they risk losing sight of what they stand for. It's time to slow down on innovation and refocus on why we're doing it in the first place.
Reasons to Pump the Breaks on the Innovation Train
In the early stages of any innovation, there's often a sense of uninformed optimism: the adrenaline is pumping, ideas are flowing, but you don't know what's around the bend. We may live in a "move fast and break things" world, but it still takes time for new ideas or processes to prove effective.
Every new brand we start goes through its own set of challenges. With Shack Shine, we made the mistake of defaulting to familiar systems, but our newest brand had different needs than we expected. Our previous three companies provide one-off services; Shack Shine, however, offers the potential for recurring services that can be scheduled throughout the year. We had to pivot and introduce a new strategy (in this case, a subscription model).
It's only been a year and we've seen promising results, but it's still too soon to know for sure if this is the right solution. We've learned we typically need three years to understand what can (and will) go wrong. Once we stabilize each brand, our strategic plan changes less and less over the years. We're better off focusing on how we can do it better than transforming altogether.
Everyone Likes to Kick It Old School
I'll be the first to say it: junk removal as a service isn't innovative -- but how we do it is. Our business model revolutionized (and defined) the entire industry. We might not be innovative in the technological sense, but we are innovative in the traditional sense.
1-800-GOT-JUNK?'s business model is incredibly simple; no fancy new app or complicated algorithms or swanky Silicon Valley office. But we've thrived on the same simple systems for nearly 30 years, and applied the same tried-and-true model to three more brands. So far, it's worked every time.
It comes back to the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." We've chosen not to change our systems because they don't need to be changed. We stick to what works and as a result, we're challenging conventional beliefs about the innovation/success correlation. It's not about how much to innovate -- it's about knowing when (and when not) to do it.