Navigation is about dealing with the external environment and adjusting to the forces that can make or break your solution. Without buy-in from key decision-makers, your solution may not survive contact with the organization, investors, or industry partners.
For breakthrough innovators, what often comes as the biggest shock is in fact the internal opposition they face from their own organization – even though it stands to benefit the most from the breakthrough. How often are Alien thinkers portrayed as good guys in movies? They are typically depicted as outsiders, misfits, not to be trusted, threatening to our ways of life.
The story of Steve Sasson is a case in point. After inventing the first-ever digital camera, he demonstrated it to his bosses at Kodak. But he presented the new technology as “filmless photography.” And in doing so, he failed to connect with executives whose careers depended on the sale and processing of film. The filmless concept totally clashed with their beliefs about what made Kodak so special, and profitable, alienating them in the process. The detractors didn’t kill the idea outright, but nor did they seize the opportunitiy. A few years later, he switched the language to digital film, and got a much better reaction, but Kodak had squandered the advantage it should have had as the originator of the technology.
This is not unusual. Great solutions get quashed all the time, because they clash with the core paradigms and beliefs that are in place, or because they don’t fit the prevailing business lines or business model. Very similar to the Steve Sasson story, all the big vacuum manufacturers rejected James Dyson’s bagless vacuum cleaner, not because it didn’t work, but because it challenged their revenue model. No more bags to sell!
As an innovator, you must learn to frame the opportunity you are working on in a way that does not trigger such allergic reactions. And you must succeed at rallying parties that will give you the credibility, resources, and drive you need to succeed.