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Guy Kawasaki: The Art of Innovation

Guy Kawasaki   New Blog

​Guy Kawasaki is a legend in his own right. He has built his career on evangelizing and advising some of the world’s best brands. He is currently the Chief Evangelist at Canva, one of our favorite online graphic design tools, and brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz. Prior to that, he was Chief Evangelist at Apple and had the incredible opportunity to work alongside Steve Jobs.

When we heard he would be keynoting The Summit, an annual gathering hosted by Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), we were incredibly excited. Guy spoke on the art of innovation and did not disappoint. He was, hands down, one of the highlights of the event. He shared 10 points on the art of innovation that we truly incredible.

In case you missed it, we wanted to recap those top 10 (plus a bonus at the end) for you today.

Great Innovation Occurs Because Of Meaning

Guy reminded us that the best entrepreneurs set out to make meaning, not money. They truly want to change the world and make it a better place.

“But if the reason that you exist is to make money, you will attract the wrong kind of people. And with the wrong kind of people, you will not be successful. So step one is decide how you are making meaning”

Jump To The Next Curve

Guy explained how innovation occurs on the next curve, not the one you are currently on. He shared a story of the ice harvesting business that took off in the late 1800s. By 1900, nine million pounds of ice had been harvested. 30 years later, ice factories emerge and people didn’t have to harvest their own ice. 30 years after that, refrigerators emerged and people had their own ice factories in their homes

“But the curves of ice are harvesting, to ice factory, big difference there. The interesting thing is None of the ice harvesters became ice factories and none of the ice factories became refrigerator companies because most organizations define themselves in terms of what they already do. We cut blocks of frozen ponds. We freeze water centrally. And if you define yourself that way, by what you do as opposed to what benefits you provide, you will be stuck and die on your curve.”

Don’t worry, be crappy

Guy spoke about the concept of Minimally Viable Product (MVP). Ship that product as soon as it’s viable and then focus on getting to the next curve. He shared how the Macintosh 128k had 128k of RAM and they thought that was a ton of storage (three times more than the Apple II). They questioned what anyone would ever do with that much memory.

“When I think about this computer, I cringe. Not enough RAM. Too slow a chip. Not enough hard-disk storage. Thanks to my efforts, not enough software. It was a piece of crap, but it was a revolutionary piece of crap.”

Focus on Merit

Guy shared how Steve Jobs was revolutionary in his hiring practices. The only thing he cared about was competency. Everything else was not important. In 1983, half of Steve Jobs direct reports were women. Right before the Macintosh was completed, the company needed to finalize a contract with Sony for the floppy drive that would become part of the iconic computer. Susan Barnes was the CFO and accompanied Steve to Japan to finalize the agreement. The Sony executives refused to negotiate with a woman and Steve Jobs threatened to pull the contract.

“That was in 1983. Steve Jobs. Focus on merit. In my humble opinion, it is so difficult to find great people. Why would you limit the pool that you can pick from? Focus on merit.”

Don’t Be Afraid of Polarizing People

Guy spoke of how the Macintosh is a polarizing product. Some people love it. Others… not so much. The same principle applies for electric cars and TiVo.

“When TiVo first came out, some people loved it. Like me. I travel so much, I want to time shift things. I don’t want to watch commercials. And there are some people, some companies, some brands, some organization that absolutely hated TiVo. And they hated TiVo because people like me did not watch commercials. We fast-forwarded through every commercial.”

He cautioned against intentionally upsetting people. But also not to fear it. Great product will polarize people and that’s alright. The alternative of people not knowing your product exists is something much more frightening.

Ignore Your Naysayers

Guy introduced us to the term “Bozosity.” This is the tendency to believe a smart person simply because they are smart.

“And this is a real dangerous case for you, entrepreneurs. You need to really focus on this one because as an entrepreneur, many people are going to tell you need some adult supervision. You need someone who’s been there and done that. Someone that’s built a hardware company, built a software company. So they’re going to pick out people in the community that have done it before. “

He spoke about how Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM in 1943, predicted there would be five computers in the world. He thought no one would have a need to have a computing device in their home. Imagine if Steve Jobs would have listed to him….

Change Your Mind

Guy challenged the notion that changing your mind is indicative of weakness or stupidity. Steve Jobs initially released iPhone as a closed system and the only way you could add functionality was through a Safari plugin. His goal was to keep the device secure and reliable. A year later, he changed his mind.

“A year goes by. Apple executives showcase Mac iOS X Leopard and OS X development platforms at WWDC 2008. Let me translate this. The iPhone is now an open system. You can write any kind of app you want. This is a 180 degree reversal. It’s because Steve realized he was wrong to close the iPhone. He opened it up a year later and the rest is history. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes. It is a sign of courage and intelligence.”

Be Unique and Valuable

Guy introduced a graph that helps you determine how valuable and innovative your product is to the market. The vertical axis represents uniqueness and the horizontal axis represents value. Ideally, you want to be in the upper-right hand corner.

“It’s all the marketing you need to know. If you’re an engineer, build a product that’s unique and valuable. If you’re a marketeer, convince the world that it’s unique and valuable.“

Let 100 Flowers Blossom

Guy admitted he stole this concept from Chairman Mao. This concept means to take your best shot at positioning and branding and then ship.

“We thought Macintosh was a spreadsheet, database and word processing machine. Huh, big surprise. Zero for three there. What made Macintosh successful was Desktop Publishing. Desktop Publishing. Desktop Publishing was a gift from God to Apple. It saved Apple.”

Churn Baby Churn

Guy reminded us that innovation is hard and takes a ton of energy. It took the iMac Pro 30 years to be where it is today. It’s a success, but only because Apple kept iterating on it to make it better.

“I thought that innovation was an event you ship, you declare victory. It’s not true. Innovation is not an event. It is not a sprint. It is a process. It is a marathon, it is not a sprint. Churn, baby, churn.”

Bonus: Learn To Pitch

Guy gifted us with a bonus tip of learning how to pitch. He mentioned how this is an essential skill regardless of your company size.

The first tip he offered was to customize your introduction. People connect with people who share commonalities. Use LinkedIn to your advantage here.

The second tip was to use the 10, 20, 30 rule of PowerPoint to keep the audience engaged in your presentation.

“You should be able to give these 10 slides in 20 minutes. Why 20 minutes for a one-hour slot? It’s because I know that the bulk of the world still uses Windows laptop. And when somebody shows up to a pitch with a Windows laptop, I know I need to allocate 40 minutes to make it work with the projector. This is the last recommendation. Thirty-point font. That should be the minimum font size, 30 points. A good rule of thumb is divide the age of the oldest person in the audience by two. Sixty year old venture capitalist? Thirty points. Fifty year old? Twenty five points. Some day, god help you, you may be presenting to a 16 year old venture capitalist. That day? Eight-point font. Until that day, ten slides, twenty minute, thirty point font.”

The third tip was to make your slide background black. He suggested that having a black background gives a level of sophistication to your presentation.

“Have you ever been to a movie and seen the credits with black text on a white background? Never. It’s always white text on a black background because of gravitas, it’s easier to read, okay? Make your backgrounds black. I guarantee you. If you make your backgrounds black, thirty points, ten slides, twenty minutes, you’re better than 95% of people in the world.”

Seeing Guy speak was such a treat. Our whole team walked away inspired to innovate and hopefully you feel the same after reading this post.