• 02.13.09

If You Build It, They Will Come

Over the last few days, I have been sharing my interview with Carter Phipps, the executive editor of EnlightenNext magazine.


When I asked him what advice he had for other innovators, he said something I found particularly interesting. He said, “If you have something to contribute and it is important for people to know about, then you will probably have to face some adversity. But if it’s the real thing … and if it’s worthy, then people will find you.

This viewpoint resonates with so many of my interviews with successful innovators. They push through adversity because they truly feel that the world needs what they have to offer. The dedication to the mission and the definition of a company narrative seem to be two main factors that contribute to an organization’s success.

For instance, the inventor of the technology that eventually became Xerox took more than a decade to convince others that his product was needed. The inventors of the Post-it Note spent nearly as long convincing 3-M the world needed “disposable bookmarks.”

I see this pattern of innovation over and over again. First, something new is created (e.g., “disposable bookmarks”). Second, people see no need for this new thing because they have not yet created a mental category for the innovation (“Post-its”). Third, by combining two known categories, then customers and investors can understand the product and can link it to something they already recognize (e.g., a notepad + glue = “Post-its”). This convinces them to try it. They love it. They buy it again and again and again.

All true innovators face some obstacles, and those who survive reap the benefits of success. Ask yourself the following questions to unlock new opportunities today.

1. Do you have something to contribute that you are certain the world needs, even though it hasn’t caught on yet?
2. Do you have a product or idea that is worth pushing through the adversity?


About the author

Author of Outthink the Competition business strategy keynote speaker and CEO of Outthinker, a strategic innovation firm, Kaihan Krippendorff teaches executives, managers and business owners how to seize opportunities others ignore, unlock innovation, and build strategic thinking skills. Companies such as Microsoft, Citigroup, and Johnson & Johnson have successfully implemented Kaihan’s approach because their executive leadership sees the value of his innovative technique.