I took a call with a few Nokians today about innovation. Constrained by the 140-character limit on microblogs I crammed the bottom line of my hour-long argument into three points. The note started getting comments on Jaiku and pick-up on other blogs, so I thought I’d post them here:
- binge on your own dogfood
- live by usage stats
- iterate like mad
Like @constantine notes in the Jaiku thread, the real decision power comes from executing on this. A lot of people ‘get it’ but that’s not enough.
People also misinterpret the third point to mean you should release constantly without any quality control.
Those folks miss that there’s a progression here: keep dogfooding and only release when you can no longer not release. Then iterate based on what features get usage.
The secret is actually not included in my list. It is to hit the right feature set for launch.
A lot of startups end up in feature-shaving mode. One day they wake up to the painful reality that their product is too complex because they tried out a lot of different ideas.
Although obesity is not a great starting point, there are examples of successful overhauls. For instance, the first version of Flickr was a Flash application with real time chat and photo sharing. Few if any of those early features remain on Flickr today.
I believe turnaround always requires external shock. Often comes in the form of a change in leadership. When I asked a friend on the Flickr team if some specific event took place that enabled the company to execute such a drastic change of course, he replied smugly: “Caterina happened”.
I’ve also been asked many times if industry gatherings are a waste of time for startups. This conversation happened after LeWeb and it seems to recur every time an event splits attendees’ opinions.
Personally I’ve found that events and partnerships that go live on a certain date are great ways to force a big bang release. They help the team to focus and create a building sense of urgency. And it’s gratifying to ship just in time for a party :)
There’s probably lots more to be said. Feel free to add your points to the list.