Five Typologies of Snake Oil Innovation Consultants. Bad Advice Is Worse than No Advice.

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You’ve probably come across many self-claimed innovation experts in the past and it seems like anyone who has a different way of saying or doing something is calling themselves one. So many dumb things I’ve heard these people said about innovation. Some are snake oil consultants promising to help clients to innovate and to organize a company for innovation. There are some selling to clients how to be creative. I’ve heard people promising clients that they can improve innovation success rate from 4% to 80%! 80% wow, if that’s the case, this consultancy should worth a few billions at least. Google would have bought them already!

And then there’s talk about what type of people are best suited to be innovators. What kinds of archetype that represent the best quality of an innovator. This is so BS, innovators come in all sizes and shapes. I’ve come across many big ideas people who were trained in finance, economics, accountancy, legal, operations and engineering… and I’ve also met many working in the creative industries with zero ability to come up with big (medium or small) ideas although they dress creatively (that’s a matter of taste).

Here’s a typology of ‘fake’ innovation experts:

  • Mr/Ms Easily Happy – their bar is set so low and called anything new an innovation including a different color bottle cap or a new packaging. They can’t tell the difference between incremental innovations, radical innovation and design improvements and focus on the novelty value of cute things. But they are a happy camp and innovation is just a little more creativity for them.
  • Mr/Ms Let’s Change-The-World – these are the people who wanted to change the world but have no ideas of how to start. So they come up slogans such as “sea change” and talked publicly about how the word needed change but have no idea of the what and how. Real innovators are change agents and know what is needed to be done and how to mobilize. These are modern day hippies. Change is too much for them to handle.
  •  Mr/Ms Zero Clue – These people capitalize on the emerging interest of innovation and probably read every single magazine article on the subject and possibly a few bad books. Or even written one. Their messages were usually “let a thousand flowers bloom” or “change the game by doing something different”. Right. They never talked about the very core idea of ‘value’ and how to redefine them. They throw out words such as “collaboration”, “openness” or “listening”. They are afraid to say more because they don’t know more.
  • Mr/Ms More-Focus-Groups – These are focus groups addicts that believe customers know what they want. Do they? Well, focus groups are effective in testing positioning, slogans and brand perceptions etc. But it is exactly the wrong tool for innovation. Customer doesn’t know what they don’t know? Imagine Apple asking them what do you think of an iTouch Jumbo that has a bigger screen? Apple is a company that systematically ignores their customers in the design process.
  • Mr/Ms Toolbox – These are people who love to convince you how using a particular tool (creative tool or online tools etc.) can help you magically improve your innovation results or come up with the next big ideas. I think tools are important but it is one component. The human behavior aspect of the team is also important. The right leadership is also important. The right incentive system is also important and there are another 15 things. Tools are no more important that those and there should not be over reliance on them.

Image source: Garrettc

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