Next Thursday evening in Central London, with some colleagues past and present, I'm going to be presenting some of my work that's going into a book I'm calling "How Hits Work". The event is being run by Spigit, the enterprise innovation platform company. I've been invovled with Spigit for a few years now, and they're the platform that power both Innovation Market at Lloyds and IdeaStreet at the Department.
The basic premise I'm exploring in my presentation is hits - those massive, immediate product successes that just take off - almost never happen because of radical innovation. That's counter-intuituve I know, but the mechanics of hits aren't easily explained by traditional innovation theories.
Traditional theory around the way new ideas spread suggest that mass media messages - like advertising - effectively target those individuals with a particular affinity for trying new things, who then communicate their successes or failures to other, like minded people. After a while of this happening, there is enough communication going on that expansion of the idea becomes self sustaining. That's the critical mass point that people always talk about, and it takes time to get there, because it takes time for people to communicate their experiences with each other.
But hits don't seem to work quite that way. They get to their critical mass point very quickly, much more quickly than this traditional approach would seem to allow. How is it possible, for example, that a revolutionary movie can become a hit in a single weekend? Why was the iPad an overnight success?
In every single case I can find, hits are the result of taking a well understood process, technology or service from some other, adjacent market and repurposing it in a new application. There is nothing innovative about the product or service or technology: the innovation is all in the way its applied.
On the other hand, truely groundbreaking, amazing innovations without precedent are rarely hits. That's why Microsoft, with the highest R&D spend in the industry and more truely innovative things in their labs than practically everyone else, is trailing Apple. Apple know how to take commodity, tried stuff and apply it in new ways.
There's more to it, of course. In pratcially every case of a hit, there's been something else also present, a twist which reinforces the unique application. There are only a few possible variations on the twist, actually, 5 that i've identifed thus far.
I'll also be presenting some interesting cases: Microsoft versus Apple, of course, but also the the TV series Glee, the rise of Steam and its defeat by Diesel, and thje story of the man that invented the diode that made wireless possible -and never made a penny.
Anyway, that's the topic of my talk on Thursday evening. Also on stage will be David Cotterill from the Department, whose going to speak about his innovation team and motivating innovation behaviour, and Steve Wakefield, who used to run Innovation Market at Lloyds.
I have 5 spaces, so ping me if you want a spot at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: My seats are gone, but I am sure Spigit will be give me some spaces if I beg. Let me know if you missed out and I'll ask: email@example.com