How to Be Innovative

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  • The most innovative rapper doesn't listen to rap.
  • The most innovative technologist doesn't follow tech.

Instead, Kayne West immerses himself in different musical genres.

Steve Jobs studies Picasso, calligraphy, and spiritual enlightenment.

Sustainable innovation doesn't come from following your peers, and one-upping them; instead, it comes from going the opposite direction -- adapting different contexts to your own industry.

  • Kanye took rock, art, fashion, and blended them into rap.
  • Steve Jobs took design, spirituality, and fashion and blended them into technology.

The Doom Way

  1. I see Competitor X.
  2. I will one-up Competitor X by adding Feature B.


  1. Competitor Y comes along.
  2. Competitor Y includes Feature B, but also adds Feature C.
  3. Competitor Y renders your innovation fruitless.

Constantly trying to one-up a competitor with new features becomes unsustainable; a never-ending arms race with competitors drains long-term profit margins, making you more you more susceptible to lose and die.

Different Contexts Help You Compete

20 competitors compete for Billy's attention.

Instead of deciding between the 20 competitors, one innovative competitor comes along and redefines the landscape:

  • 20 of them vs. 1 of us

Apple, for instance, forced you to choose between PC (20 competitors) vs. Mac (1 competitor).

The Nintendo Wii forced you to choose between traditional video game consoles and a universally-inclusive fun console.

  • When you live inside your industrial bubble, you compete against everyone in your industry to get Billy's attention.
  • When you go outside of your industrial bubble, you force everyone else to compete against YOU.

To be innovative, go the opposite direction from where your peers go; you'll redefine the landscape (i.e., YOU vs. the rest of the competition), making you more sustainable.

Foreign contexts.

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Posted on November 12

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