Twenty years after the launch of the revolutionary business magazine Fast Company, we sat down with co-founder Bill Taylor to talk about the challenges facing innovators inside large organizations today. Taylor blogs for Harvard Business Review and is at work on a new book, due out in 2016, called, “Average Is Not an Option: Why Some People Own the Future and Others Are Stuck in the Past.” You can follow him on Twitter: @practicallyrad.
Five of our favorite quotes from the interview are below; Innovation Leader members can find the complete conversation here.
• “I’m a founder of a magazine called Fast Company. I’ve come to the conclusion that, by and large, patience is a highly-valued virtue when it comes to innovation.”
• “If you do things that are genuinely new, exciting, compelling, and resonate with customers, it’s amazing to me not how fast but how slow everybody is to copy what you’re doing. People have this notion that I don’t want to break new ground because the minute I succeed, someone copies me.”
• “There was this great white paper written by two guys at Ohio State. They said all of business culture is about punishing people for sinking the boat. You build a boat, you send it out to sea, and it sinks. Nobody ever gets punished for missing the boat. The story of most big companies is, ‘Man, it was all right there to be done, and we just didn’t have the guts to do it. We missed the boat.’ I think being able, as a leader, to communicate the big organizational costs of missing the boat, not innovating when you could have, is super-important. Versus being very good at counting the beans when you try to innovate and it doesn’t work out.”
• On ‘damaging the brand’ by showing customers rough, imperfect prototypes: “I think companies don’t give their customers enough credit. People understand this now. ‘We’re roughing this out. We want you to help us make it better than it is. It’s our beta or our alpha.’ People enjoy the opportunity, by the way. You’re not embarrassing yourself, you’re not imposing anything on them. You’re giving them a shot, as a customer, to help you.”
• “One of my favorite messages is, ‘You can’t let what you know limit what you can imagine.’ The more you know about anything, the harder it is to say, ‘Wow, there are so many new answers to all these old problems.’ All that expertise oftentimes constrains your ability to take the future.”
Here’s the complete transcript of the interview.