In Search of Innovation Without End

LinkedIn's Deep Nishar sparks innovation discussion at Cannes Lions CEO Academy

June 19, 2014

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The Cannes Lions CEO Academy draws together creative-minded business leaders who are committed to building innovative organisations. As the heads of start-ups or young companies, these leaders have to focus on identifying breakthrough opportunities and building businesses that can exploit them. However, one of the key themes in a lively first day at the Academy was the need to be more ambitious still. To seek to innovate endlessly.

The challenge is to build businesses that instinctively challenge their own success and commit to pushing further; that never feel satisfied with the status quo. It’s a challenge that involves constructing organisations where all employees buy in to change and adaptation, and are able to take risks and operate creatively, without fear of the consequences of failure.

It’s a challenge that the Academy attendees are well aware of – and which many are committed to creating cultures around. But if they needed a reminder of the threat of only innovating once, the presentation from LinkedIn’s Deep Nishar, SVP Products and User Experience, certainly provided one.

In explaining his 7 Product Design Rules that Work for People, Too, he outlined the principles of creating insanely brilliant and simple products that change people’s lives. And he went on to provide some important guidelines for mastering the art of continual innovation:

  • If constraints emerge, use them to provide a new focus. Businesses that embrace constraints don’t compromise what they do, then find an opportunity to reinvent it.
  • Be prepared to follow where data leads. If the data suggests that people are using your product differently to how you had planned, then the data has given you an opportunity to keep innovating.
  • Build on what’s gone before. Innovation isn’t a single step-change; it’s a continual process of improvements in which the real breakthroughs involve bringing together what has gone before. Recognise that your last innovation is a part of this process, and it will keep pushing you forward.

Deep pointed to the example of Netscape, Sun Microsystems and SiliconGraphics – three amazing companies that created entire categories and transformed the world we live in, but which no longer exist as independent entities.

What happened? At some point each company found itself unable to adapt when the circumstances demanded it: in Netscape’s case, when rivals started giving away web browsers for free; in SiliconGraphics’ case when they started selling cheaper microchips. It’s a fate that befalls 95% of technology companies during their first 20 years – but it is not inevitable. The success of PayPal (founded to transfer money between Palm Pilots), Flickr (originally a multi-player online game) and Netflix (currently transforming itself from mail order business to media company) demonstrate the power that comes from retaining the ability to question the essence of what you do.

For more on what separates Inspired Innovators from the rest, see Deep’s LinkedIn Influencer post on 7 Product Design Rules that Work for People, Too.

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