The Danger of Originality

June 24, 2011
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The Danger of Originality: “Don’t always seek to Invent; Innovate instead.”

There is massive difference between innovation and invention. The classic example is trying to re-invent the wheel, what massive waste of energy to come up with a square wheel that works? Innovation is taking the wheel as it was invented and then improving on that invention. For example making the wheel thinner for racing bikes, fatter and more stubbly for mountain bikes and doing away with it altogether when a joy-stick gets a better job done.

There is danger in originality, in particular with regard to tried and trusted methods which already work, and messing about with them to their detriment. But this also depends to a great extent on how we mess around and perceive originality to be. The word ‘original’ has to consider your perception of the word and filtering what is an authentic definition for you.

With reference to tried and trusted methods and the danger of originality – the concept is “don’t always seek to invent, seek to innovate instead”. Some marketing and business mentors go so far as to say that originality is the kiss of death, but we believe that this might be taking the concept of originality a little too off the beaten path. “Don’t always seek to invent; innovate instead”, intimates that invention is not out of the question, just don’t break your neck doing it, because innovation is king. What we do then is put an authentic spin on proven theories, techniques and ideas.

The invention already works, with inspired innovation it could work even better!

Research is a critical part of all inspired innovation. We see this with Guerrilla Marketing plans, where in-depth insight from prospects forms a vital aspect of innovative techniques, and has done for a very long time.

Despite theories which date this ideal and say that showing customers the ‘way’ and ignoring what they want is the way to go – many innovators as well as originators don’t actually know what’s best. Proper origination and innovation means paying constant attention to every customers needs, and in fact many of the best innovations come straight from the horse’s (customer’s) mouth.

Take Apple for example were customers drive the design. This is a great company because they already know what their customer wants. Steve Jobs might be a brainiac businessman, but he is also the archetypal Apple user. Gathering a team around him who are also prototypical users provides for an environment of empathetic innovation – they are the customers and know what like-minded people want from their products. Questionnaires are the perfect tool for developing customer innovated empathy.

Customers are therefore the best people from whom we can discover what solutions to their problems to look out for, in terms of how we innovate. Guerrilla marketing itself boils down to this fact; that customers are looking for solutions to problems and as marketers we provide those solutions. We don’t sell shampoo too make hair clean, we sell it to solve a problem. For example too much frizz, too limp, or too greasy hair.

Don’t get too caught up in the many words bandies in marketing-speak; in this instance ‘originality’, ‘invention’, innovation’. What is really important; is to actually understand concepts and ideas in context, and not try to re-invent the wheel.

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