The Right Stuff — Innovator’s Edition
The Innovator’s Solution suggests successful sustaining innovators often systematically mess up chances of disruptive growth. What are common traps, that innovators should stop digging? What is the better “right stuff” for a new venture?
On Sep. 7, 22, a hire surprised the automotive & tech. Doug Field was Apple’s car chief and will join Ford as the chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer. It’s a brave move for Field to take such tough challenges. I sincerely wish Field will take Ford to a better Starter Car track & maneuver away from the Nokia traps. So drivers may have real choices instead of “just black”. A few tips for such ventures & godspeed, Field & Ford.
Push boundaries interactively
Against all odds, the Wright brothers invented, built & flew the 1st motor-operated airplane. Not because they had all the “right stuff” conventional wisdom suggested. But maybe, their secret sauce content other key ingredients.
In the early 20th century, many innovators were completing to make the 1st powered airplane, which can actually fly. Samuel Langley was the most promising person because he had all the “right stuff”, e.g. great knowledge & experience in the field, the best funding & great media attention to attract the best talents. But Langley gave up after two crashes on take-off on Oct. 7 & Dec. 8, 1903 because of bad public sentiment.
“Luckily” soon after, on Dec. 13, 1903, the Wright brothers successfully completed the 1st powered flight. They did not have the right credentials, enough founding nor urging a spectacular success. Instead, their progressive accumulation of experiences & gradual progression from gliders to powered flight is the “right stuff” for the inevitable break thought. In other words, they were iterating & pushing the boundaries continually.
“Right stuff” but wrong people
Often, I see teams hiring from big & successful companies to scale, pivot, or solve a complex problem. There are success stories for sure. But from my experience, more cases under-deliver to the expectation. Sure, a disappointment or success is never only because of a single factor. But “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” is very typical.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against great talents working in established organizations, myself included 😅. The dilemma goes the other way too, as someone from a small startup may not know how to scale quickly. Because such challenges have a much high failure rate by nature, conventional hiring by credentials is not enough. While credentials & experiences provide some signals for the right people for the challenges, they are incomplete for such choices by themself.
Autonomous founding team
As I’ve been working on Automotive with a few carmakers for 19 months, I keep seeing many people spend most of their time on defining, clarifying & redefining “Role & Responsibility” (R&R) for every new problem. While I understand the value of it, but it’s painful to see it taking the most valuable time & consuming energy of all stakeholders. Luckily, there are theories & better practices to avoid such traps. But, the real challenge is if the leads dare to walk to talk.
A disruptive(aka 10x) opportunity typically fits current processes, capability/structure of teams & business models poorly. The Innovator’s Solution suggests the Autonomous Heavyweight team has a better success chance. This is not a secret for big tech. For example, Amazon calls it the single-threaded leadership for a two-pizza team. Apple delegates to the Directly Responsible Individual. And Netflix empowers the Informed Captain.
In other words, an Autonomous Founding Team may disrupt quicker or at least lean faster while an established organization is clarifying R&R. Remember, unless you work in a consulting company, having a perfect R&R or whatever docs are a mean, not the end. If they drag your team to create the real value for the users, you definability should find a better thing to do.
The opinions stated here are my own, not those of my company. They are mostly extrapolations from public information. I don’t have insider knowledge of those companies, nor a whatever expert.