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Guy Kawasaki: don’t believe the bozos

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The final keynote here in Hong Kong was from Guy Kawasaki, founding partner of garage technology ventures, co-founder, original visionary partner of Steve Jobs at Apple and all round good Guy. Here’s a summary of his speech:

When I was first at Apple, we had two divisions – Apple II and the new, yet to be released, Macintosh division where I worked.

That’s why, when we talked about P&L, the Apple II guys used to joke that we were the L in P&L as the Mac hadn’t been released yet but was taking all their profit to develop it.

So Apple II had a joke about the Mac group.

How many Mac division employees does it take to screw in a light bulb?

One. He just holds up the light bulb and expects the universe to revolve around him to screw it in though.

We also had the Apple joke about Microsoft which went: How many Microsoft employees does it take to screw in a light bulb?

None ... because Bill Gates has declared darkness as the new standard.

But enough about that, I’m here to talk about innovation and there are ten lessons I have learned about innovation and how it happens.

The first is that innovation occurs when it is rooted in something that has great meaning.

It wants to change the world.

When Apple started, the aim was to use the computer to make the world a better place.

Google started with the aim to make it easier for the planet to find stuff.

Here’s an example of what I mean about how this works ...

A women is measured by the things she cannot control.

She is measured by the way her body curves or doesn’t curve.

By where she is flat or straight or round.

She is measured by 36-24-36, by age, dress size and inches.

By her measurements.

If a women is to be measured, let her be measured by the things she can control.

By who she is and who she is trying to become because, as every women knows, measurements are only statistics and statistics lie.

(Unsurprisingly this got a huge applause)

Second, innovation needs a mantra.

How many of you work for firms with mission statements?

(the majority of the audience)

OK, these are all the firms who are not using Macintoshes.

Mission statements are made by managers who can’t lead or communicate.

They are drafted in two day offsite meetings where, on the first day, you form cross-functional teams and fall backwards into the arms of your colleagues to learn to love and communicate with people you can’t stand.

Second day you’re in a small room with a facilitator and you come up with your statement.

Here’s one from Wendy’s Burger Chain:

The mission of Wendy’s is to deliver superior quality products and service for our customers and communities through leadership, innovation and partnerships.


That inspires me to eat a burger? Not!

You need a mantra. A simple three word inspiration. Here’s some ideas:

Wendy’s: “healthy fast food”
Nike: “authentic athletic performance”
Fedex: “peace of mind”

As you make meaning, wrap your meaning around three words and make that a mantra for the business.

Step 3 is to jump to the next curve.

Innovation doesn’t occur when you make things a bit better – it occurs when you make it ten times better. For example, to get ice we originally were cutting big chunks of ice out of the snow with saws and then hauling that back.

Innovation ideas would have been based on an extra horse being unique to haul ice.

Ice 2.0 was creating an ice firm to produce ice and an ice factory which freezes and delivers ice to houses.

Ice 3.0 was creating a fridge which delivers a personalised ice factory

Each of these is the curveball similar to moving from telegraph to telephone or from daisy wheel printer to laser printer to inkjet.

Next, roll the dice.

Dice is an acronym of the four qualities of great products.

D is for deep functionality
I is for intelligence in the product
C is for completeness (you won’t need anything more) and
E is for elegance

Five: don’t worry, be crappy

At the start of any great revolution, if you’ve jumped the curve, you will have issues: bugs, problems and shortcomings. Take that as a given.

In 1984, the initial Mac had 128k which we thought was an ocean of memory. It had 400k floppy drives whilst the biggest disk available was 5mb. It came with no software, colour, displays, Ethernet, etc.

It was a piece of crap, but a revolutionary piece of crap.

And if we had waited for the right chips, etc we never would have launched.
Now I’m not telling you to create crappy products, but I’m saying that if you have a revolutionary idea that is ready then get it out there, even if it has some crappy bits in it.

Then, let 100 flowers blossom.

You think you know how people will use your products but it gets out there and 100 other uses appear.

You find the wrong people are buying your products in large quantities.

If that happens, take the money. Then find out who is using the product and why, and then give them more reasons to buy more.

Don’t try to fix your product for the people you thought would use it and aren’t. Ignore those people and focus on the ones who are buying it.

For example, we thought we had a product with spreadsheets and number crunching in there, but none of us foresaw that the Mac would be used for desktop publishing (DTP).

DTP and Aldus Pagemaker saved Apple.

It was a gift from god.

That’s what made us. Not spreadsheet and others.

This leads to my next point, which is that you need to polarize people.

Some people will love your product and some will hate it.

Some love apple, some hate.

Great products polarize people.

Next: churn, baby, churn

Ship version 1 and then 1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 2.0 etc.

Keep upgrading and improving

It’s the hardest thing to do as you’re so tired to have shipped your revolution, your first service, but you have to keep doing this to keep the revolution going.

Revolution is not an event, it’s a process.

On to value.

You need to have hugely different value and uniqueness.

These are mutually inclusive and you need both as one doesn’t cut it.

And a final rule of innovation: don’t let the bozos grind you down.

The most dangerous bozo is the one who dresses in black, drives nice cars, wears designer labels and is rich and famous.

You think they are rich and famous so they must be smart but, in fact, they are rich and famous due to luck, not because they are smart.

These are dangerous bozos and you need to think of bozos as like the flu and innoculate yourself to bozosity.

What I mean by this is that I can’t tell you if someone says ‘you’ll fail’ that you won’t succeed, but I can tell you that if you listen to the person who says ‘you’ll fail’ and you believe them, then you’ll never succeed.

Ignore the bozos and believe in yourself.

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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