A big part of launching a new and original product is first convincing people you’re capable of having innovative ideas.

By Craig Saila

A big part of launching a new and original product is first convincing people you’re capable of having innovative ideas.

Although all companies of a certain age risk being seen as staid, some are particularly vulnerable.

Take, for instance, newspapers.

Toronto’s largest paper received some gentle mocking for a new offering it launched recently. The product was a new category for the company, but even the simplest business model canvas effort would show a market fit. Readership mapped nicely to the desired customer segment and last mile delivery costs are essentially zero. Even better, there was a proven business model with limited local competition.

The idea?

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On launch, the Toronto Star was painted as yet another grandparent at a nightclub. These kind of reactions are quite common and help stifle innovation in far too many legacy organizations.

The immediate backlash is read by corporate HQ as another failure, which then retrenches behind past successes. Learning from, and iterating on, the perceived failure becomes impossible as political capital is spent calming anxious executives.

Ideas deemed “innovative” are placed under increased scrutiny while revenue softens as others address the needs of once loyal customers frustrated by stale offerings.

The cycle continues.

Companies, if serious about innovation, need to do more than fund a lab.

They must learn to differentiate harmful projects from those needing a little more polish. They need to cultivate a culture that can nurture awkward ideas both internally and externally. They should be having regular conversations with their customers.

Something as simple as identifying a few customer evangelists before going to market can help. These people can validate ideas, offer suggestions, and even prime the marketplace for emerging opportunities.

With a receptive market, there’s space to build, time to measure, and room to learn. With each earnest attempt to improve the product, the customers grow more sympathetic to, and curious about, the company itself. Done well, people might even begin expecting innovative ideas regularly from the company.

But that’s a whole other story.

This story was originally posted on Craig Saila’s Medium page, and is reposted here with the author’s permission. You can find Craig on Twitter.