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Innovation

The digger

We have all heard the story of the digger, let’s call him Jonathan, who is digging a hole in the ground with his shovel. A friendly helper asks him why he doesn’t use an excavator. Jonathan grumbly replies: ‘I don’t have time to do that, I have to dig here’. The readers quickly agree that this is quite a stupid reaction to not invest the time to fetch the helping solution.

Let’s see it from Jonathan’s viewpoint: he is an expert digger, he has been digging all his life, and he as dug enormous holes. He is very confident: before the end of the day the hole will be as wide and deep as it has been requested by his boss.

The solution that is offered to him is risky. Jonathan doesn’t know where to get an excavator, and maybe he also doesn’t know how to operate it. Maybe he isn’t sure whether an excavator can dig a hole of the requested size. To find an excavator takes time, and if it doesn’t work, he will not reach his goal by the time requested. He knows however that he will reach it with his shovel. From his viewpoint, what’s the better choice?

The situation becomes more confusing for Jonathan if the friendly helper tells him that later that afternoon, there would be a Dogorikusti nearby that would do the job in seconds. You probably don’t know what a Dogorikusti is, and neither does Jonathan. Shall he believe the friendly helper and wait? Shall he risk telling his boss in the evening, that the Dogorikusti didn’t finish in time?

This is quite similar to how innovation projects work. It is difficult to predict what the solution will look like, how it will work, and by when it will be available. And it’s as difficult, if not more difficult to predict, whether the market will accept the solution, or even what the proper market for the solution would be.

But if you don’t get moving and ask these questions yourself, sooner or later someone will come out with a Dogorikusti that will sweep your solution from the market. The graveyard of companies who haven’t moved is big, but there’s still room. Not a lot, but sufficient for one more. And Jonathan is about to dig that grave.

One reply on “The digger”

To the point. I love how you take the different perspectives. What would add to the picture in my view is also the issue of hind side wisdom. All the people that justify after things have happened that it was so obvious without knowing any details and anything about the other 10 who tried the same obviously right thing but failed.

It is easy to see the solution as superior after it has proven itself, but it is really hard when you are in the think of it and it is risky too.

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