How Simple Questions Lead to Great Innovations

Innovations are the engines of progress. Every innovation has been created and implemented by some certain company and its people. There is a common myth out there that successful companies begin with great ambitions. This means that a project and its team should start with a grandiose goal in order to become successful. But many researches state that many projects succeed just by people wondering about simple things and this lead them to ask some simple questions. Do you want to know what exactly the simple questions were?

Guy Kawasaki, a famous technology evangelist and author of The Art of the Start 2.0, has asked himself and lots of tech leaders what simple questions should be asked on the planning stage of a project and how this can help yourself and your company to become successful.

Therefore, what?

This question arises when you explore or predict a technology trend and wonder about its consequences.

It works like the next questions and answers: ‘Everyone will have a smartphone or a tablet with fast Internet access’. Therefore, what? ‘They will communicate more and will be using their devices more’. Therefore, what? ‘We should create an app that would allow people to send instant messages with additional options of sending images, video and audio messages, and even free phone calls’. And, here you go; WhatsApp and Viber were created.

Isn’t it interesting?

The power of this method is in intellectual curiosity and accidental discovery arena.

Ray Kroc was an appliance salesman who notices that all of a sudden a small restaurant from a small city (San Bernardino, CA, US) ordered 8 of his multi-mixers. He decided to visit the restaurant out of curiosity and as was really impressed with the success of the small restaurant. The restaurant had a business model of serving visitors as fast as possible. Ray became convinced that the setup of this small chain had the potential to explode across the nation. He pitched the idea of similar restaurants to the McDonald brothers, and the rest is history.


Is there a better way?

Dissatisfaction with the current state is the hallmark of this path. Once Ferdinand Porsche said, “In the beginning I looked around and did not find a car of my dreams, so I decided to build it by myself”.

One day, one engineer from Canon accidentally put a soldering iron on a ballpoint pen. The ink from pen flowed with the heat. As a result, he got the idea of creating an inkjet printer.

Steve Wozniak built Apple I because he believed that there was a better way to access computers, rather than to work for government, or university, or a big company.

It’s possible, so why don’t we make this?

The market of big innovations is seldom proven by the society, so the ‘why not’ attitude is the characteristic of this path. For example, Motorola invented the first portable phone back in the 1970s, but most people thought that it was a useless toy. At those times, phones were linked to places, not people. However, Martin Cooper and other Motorola engineers still made it, and the rest is history.

Where is the market leader weak?

Three conditions that make a market leader weak:

  • When the leader seeks to make a business.

For example, IBM stacked in its development distributing computers through resellers, while Dell could innovate by selling direct.

  • The customers of the leader are dissatisfied.

For example, the necessity to drive to video rental shops to pick up and return videos opened doors to such online streaming services, as Hulu and Netflix.

  • The market leader stops innovating and starts ‘milking the cash cow’.

This is what happened to Microsoft Office and that resulted in the popularity of Google Docs.

So, the genesis of successful developers and companies is answering simple questions that move innovations and change the world.