Failure to innovate means certain death, says tech icon Guy Kawasaki

Edd K. Usman

MACTAN CITY — Innovation is vital to the survival of business; failure to do so means death.

Silicon Valley legend and tech rock star Guy Kawasaki issued this warning during the recently concluded 2017 Asian Carriers Conference, now re-branded as ACC.

Guy Kawasaki: "I can't see a case where customers don't want to see innovation."

Guy Kawasaki

In a meeting with Manila journalists after his presentation, he hammered on digital transformation as something that is between life and death for companies.

“I can’t see a case where customers don’t want innovating. There maybe some companies where there is truly all (about) costs, something like that. But for the tech audience, I can’t think of an example where customers don’t want there tech company to innovate, and they just want to get the same old thing. I think that’s a sure way to die, in tech,” he warned.

The Silicon Valley tech guru delivered the keynote speech on the “Art of Transformation”, drawing from life lessons he learned from the late Steve Jobs and his company Apple.

Kawasaki recalled that he worked with Jobs as Apple as software evangelist in 1983 to 1987, and then left to start a new company. In 1995, he re-joined the company as evangelist, but once again left in 1997 to start a venture capital firm.

Currently, the Japanese-American, 63, is chief evangelist of Canva, an Australian online design company; he is brand ambassador of Mercedes Benz, a writer/author, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and speaker delivering and imparting his experiences. He has 13 books in his name, and writing his 14th.

Wearing a coat over a striped, long-sleeved shirt, and with a cheerful disposition on the stage, he proceeded to lay down his 10 key points he shared with over 1,500 delegates from around the world, mostly, if not all, in the telecommunications industry.

Besides learning them firsthand from Apple and Jobs, he said he imbibed them as an entrepreneur, a venture capitalist, and an adviser to many startups in Silicon Valley.

At the opening of ACC, he regaled over 1,000 delegates from various parts of the world, as he delivered a lecture his lecture that revolved around the three-day event’s theme: “Reinventing Customer Experience in the Digital Age.”

He started off saying what he was imparting was life lessons he learned from Jobs, the founder of Apple, the world’s first company to grow by a massive $700 billion.

While he admitted that his points may not be the best way to do things, “I think it is the path that I think that can lead to success,” he said.

“Do not ask customers” was the very first lesson he said he learned. For companies going on digital disruption and innovation, they should not ask their customers for suggestions. It may appear counter-intuitive, he said, but asking the customers is really not a good step.

To prove his point, Kawasaki recalled the case of Apple I computer. The company founded by Jobs talked to its customers in the mid-80’s and they said they wanted a “better, faster, cheaper Apple II. Nobody asked for a Macintosh.”

“Apple gave its customers a completely different computer than what they probably would have asked for. And I learned a very valuable lesson that if you truly, truly want to disrupt and industry, you cannot necessarily ask your current customers because your current customers will only describe in terms of what they already know. Don’t ask customers.”

As a result, in 1984, Jobs delivered the first Macintosh computer and went on to revolutionize the whole computer industry.

“Jump to the next curve,” Kasawaki said, was the second thing he learned. If companies want to truly disrupt, they should jump right in to the next curve and not to build simply a better Apple II. Get to the next curve in computing.

The examples he cited was the evolution of the ice industry starting with Ice 1.0 in 1890-1900 when harvesting of ice from frozen lakes was done only during winter, with such “technology” as a horse, a saw, and sleigh.

After 30 years, Ice 2.0 came, the ice factory, which is better because people did not rely on winter and was not dependent in a cold city.

While Filipinos cannot harvest ice in the Philippines, they were able to build ice factories. Workers delivered ice with their truck, which was “a significant breakthrough.”

Ice 3.0 arrived which was the next curve, the refrigerator, which allowed people have a small ice factory in their homes.

And the most vital lesson? He said that to get to the next curve, “you could be the most successful ice factory, but if you don’t embrace the refrigerator, you will die.”

His third point, make an MVVVP (minimum viable, valuable, validating product). It is about shifting product without waiting for perfection and try to dent the universe.

He recommended that companies shift to something viable and valuable and validating on how they believe the world will evolve.

The next lesson he shared, making design count (and great design is the key to Apple).

“I think if you want to disrupt the market you should think of your engineers as artists (as Jobs believed), that they are making art, that is an expression of their soul; be willing to polarize people (some people will love what you do, some people will hate what you do, some people loved Macintosh, some hated Macintosh).

“I am not saying that you should intentionally piss people off. I am telling you though that great innovation and disruption tend to piss people off. It’s OK to polarize people,” he said.

For his last four lessons, he said learn to ignore naysayers who will say it can’t be done, not necessary. Many people predicted the demise of Macintosh; now for every square foot Apple is the most successful retailer in the world.

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