How Innovation is Killing Your Company

Tonight I was in a heated discussion with a mentor of mine. Not surprisingly, I was heated… not the mentor ;). At the core of the discussion was a company that we both have an interest in. My concern with the company is that they are not delivering on the promise of their solution. His argument is that he believes they are both innovative and have been successful in capturing the eye of key influencers in the industry.

Jason FriedInnovation is pretty overrated. Your goal should not be being innovative, your goal should be to be useful. Video: From 37 Signals, Jason Fried on Innovation

I wholeheartedly agree.

Before your head explodes… being useful can be innovative. But being innovative doesn't always mean it's useful. The company that we're talking about is a content management system that makes publishing and organizing content easier as well as optimized for search engines. It's a rock solid platform with an incredible infrastructure. Throw a team of content writers at it and they can publish effortlessly.

The problem is that, often, the content is not optimized. Quite the opposite, there are some huge gaps in the optimization that reduces the chances for the content to be indexed properly by the search engines. In other words, the platform is not useful.

My mentor admitted that they struggle when put in the room with the SEO guys from the companies. Of course they do! Why is he surprised? If you're missing some of the basic elements of optimizing your platform, you're going to lose sales to the internal SEO guy every time. And they should.

The company's focus has been all about the next Internet celeb to host a webinar, an industry leader to schmooze with, an author to promote the business, an influencer to pay off, or a new feature to wow a prospect. In my honest opinion, I believe all of these tactics are a waste of time, energy and… ultimately… money. I think the company is doing their customers a disservice… and paying for it. They're not living up to the expectation that they set in the sales process… that they were useful.

As a result, their company is not growing at the rate of other healthy startups. Quite the opposite, their support teams are frustrated, employee turnover has been high, and their retention is suffering. Every release brings more innovative features that generate new problems and challenges.

This is all leading to the company's reputation being at risk. I've been hesitant to push companies to the platform although I see the incredible potential in the company. Once they get back to useful, I have no doubt they'll explode in growth.

For right now, though, innovation is killing them.

What do you think?

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