One thing they all have in common is a guest speaker. Conferences in the US usually have some kind of happy-clappy health, happiness and well-being guru who stands on the over-lit stage and addresses delegates like a zealous priest preaching to his congregation. (I'm also sure these gurus are there just to embarrass the British contingent. I?ve witnessed many a UK businessman looking incredibly awkward after being told to hug the people around him.)
At a recent conference the guest speaker, who talked about innovation, was Dean Kamen. Not a name most people instantly recognise, I admit. He is probably best known for inventing the Segway - the two-wheel transportation device that no one can fall off (except for certain presidents, of course).
Innovation, he claimed, has no timeline or budget, and needs to be tested many times and in many different ways before anything innovative is ever produced. For true technological innovation this is true, but innovation within the channel is constrained by both budgets and time. This makes it no less innovative.
Innovation isn't necessarily discovering hyperthreading or the latest security standard, reinventing the internet or redesigning the microchip. Often the whole point of innovation is not simply to solve a problem, but to recognise exactly what the problem is in the first place. And it doesn't end there. Channel players who believe that solving a problem in a different way is the answer are only halfway there.
End-users often don't welcome innovation because it spells change, and because no matter how good a new system is, an old system will always have two advantages: it is established and it is understood.
It is the task of the channel to not only solve the problem, but to ensure end-users recognise why the innovation is needed. Buy-in is the essential ingredient to any real innovation, because without acceptance it will be stopped in its tracks.
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