How Harry Potter should sell his innovation
A black swan is a metaphor devised by Nassim Nicholas Taleb for an event or item that is totally outside the perception of a person’s consciousness that they write it off as an impossibility. The metaphor goes that there was a time not so long ago when the general perception was that all swans were considered to be pure white. When an actual black swan was subsequently discovered it sent the this notion into a metaphorical tail spin as people readjusted to the new normal. Up until this moment people simply did not believe in Black Swans.
As developers of innovative products it is our job to wrestle Black Swans into a manner we can exploit. At no point in our history have black swans been discovered at the rate they are now. But once we think we have one of our own how the heck do you convince the fragile inward looking world that what we have is a genuine thingy that will benefit the world?
Pity then a poor Harry Potter who having fallen on hard times decides he is going to sell magic wands to “muggles”.
Wand in hand he sets off to the Ministry of Defence (the Brit version of Homeland Security) and after many phone calls finally gets a 20 minute slot to speak to the oh so busy bloke in charge of procurement.
BLOKE: “So what have you here chap?”
HARRY: “The turbo wand 3000″
BLOKE: “But it looks just like a stick”
HARRY: “No its made of unicorn hair and a profusion of herbs and spices”
BLOKE: “But it still looks like a stick, what can it do?”
HARRY: “Well amongst heaps of other stuff it can slay a Basilisk”
BLOKE: “What the heck is a Basilisk?”
HARRY: “Its a huge monster thing that I managed to kill that was hiding inside my school”
BLOKE: “A monster in school where the heck is that and why do I not know about it?”
Before he knows it Harry is now explaining the entire plot to The Chamber of Secrets which while not War and Peace is not really easily done within the time frame of a busy executive. What he has done is to overwhelm the bloke with too many black swans. He needs to reign in his enthusiasm and up front attempts at demonstrating his expertise and attend the meeting to listen. The bloke simply doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and 20 minutes is not enough time to explain. The black swans Harry is revealing by definition is stuff he doesn’t believe exists. As far as he is concerned a Black Swan is pure BS.
Harry needs to have an open mind about what he is about to present and modify his pitch to introduce the swanage in a more palatable way! In other words let the customer describe his problem and then describe how the black swan can help with a solution.
BLOKE: “So what have you here chap?”
HARRY: “I have a solution to your problems”
BLOKE: “What do you mean by that?”
HARRY: “Can you tell me what the your biggest problem is?”
BLOKE: “Well your not going to believe it”
HARRY: “Try me… Maybe you explain it in your own words simply?”
BLOKE: “Our current call for innovation is to rid the Underground of an enormous lizard”
But this has nowt to do with you eh… your tech is just so cool right? But sometimes it can be so cool that muggles simply think its cold. We innovators need to overcome the desire to show off describing unicorns, basilisks and other war stories. We need to listen too.
When selling innovation as wizarding experts we can often forget how long we have invested in the idea. Concepts that appear trivial to us will be daunting to the consumer. Conversely problems to the consumer finds enormous we feel are small. And a small note here… it is the latter area where money is to be made.
With the agile mind you need to let the customer do the talking and measure the actual requirement. Muggles will burn 20 minutes talking about their problems. But as a polite boy/girl-wizard you can offer come back with a laser focused solution that we wizards knew was in always in your pocket!
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