Josh Linkner on “Swiss Army Knife Innovation”

Here’s a recent post by Josh Linkner at his website. To check out the wealth of resources that he provides, please click here.

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That ubiquitous red contraption contains just about every feature you can imagine.  A nail clipper, ice pick, and Philips screwdriver.  None of the individual tools are especially remarkable – you could buy a corkscrew that is higher quality and more beautifully designed – but all of these mediocre features are crammed into one product. Is that what your company does? Spending nearly every waking moment with entrepreneurs, a common mistake is to try to drive progress by adding product features.  Website isn’t attracting enough users?  Throw in an extra function to the site.  Mobile app missing revenue targets?  Must need some new bell or whistle.
I call this the Swiss Army Knife trap.  It’s the erroneous conclusion that adding more will create more, while the truth is that the best companies focus their energy on simplicity.

Apple is legendary for removing buttons and features to offer customers beautiful, simple, clean design.  A key reason Facebook crushed MySpace was their ability to offer an elegant, uncluttered user experience.  The best companies focus on having fewer product features, but having the ones that remain deliver something truly special.

Instead of adding yet another function or service to your mix, try the opposite approach.  Great sculptors throughout history believe that their work of art already exists within that giant block of granite. Their job is to remove the unnecessary rock to reveal their masterpiece.  Think about your own product or service.  What can you remove, streamline, or simplify to reveal an uncluttered work of beauty?  Create an offering that’s easy to understand and solves real customer problems in a remarkable way.
You’re far better off doing one thing really, really well than trying to toss in every feature imaginable.  Direct your creative energy toward being the best at something and making it so compelling that it can’t be ignored.  Too many ingredients in the soup makes it taste horrible… the same applies to your business.

It’s time to resist the diabolical temptation to add a toothpick, leather punch, or tweezers.  Stop worrying about adding new menu items and make sure you are delivering incredible value with your core offering. Your customers, investors, team members, and accountant will all thank you.

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Josh Linkner is the New York Times bestselling author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity, named one of the top 10 business books of 2011. Josh is the CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners. Together with business partners Earvin “Magic” Johnson and NBA team owner Dan Gilbert, Josh is actively rebuilding urban areas through technology and entrepreneurship. He is also Adjunct Professor of Applied Creativity at the University of Michigan. For more information on creativity, visit his website by clicking here.

“In addition to my blog, you’ll find free videos, quizzes, articles, eBooks and more to help fuel your creative fire!”

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