07 Apr Beating back the bozos is an innovation must, says Kawasaki
The art of innovation is in large measure the ability to tune out negativity, author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki said Friday to a gathering of southeastern Wisconsin technology professionals.
Kawasaki, managing partner of Garage Technology Ventures and author of “Art of the Start” and several other business books, gave his 10-point “Art of Innovation” presentation to members of eInnovate. He poked some good-natured fun at politicians, Microsoft Windows, and even himself during an hour-long talk in the We Energies Auditorium.
Regarding innovation, one of his pieces of advice is “don’t let the bozos drag you down,” meaning don’t give in to dismissive negativity directed toward innovative ideas. He cited a litany of examples where ideas that later flourished were initially ridiculed, including quotes from successful business icons like Ken Olsen. In the late 1970s, when he was CEO of Digital Equipment Corp., Olsen once uttered, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”
Just a few years later, the Apple II and other personal computers were changing people’s minds. “The more innovative your product, the more `bozocity’ you will encounter,” Kawasaki said, perhaps coining a new term.
The most dangerous bozos, he added, are successful people. Given their status, people automatically assume they must be smart, which is “a big leap in logic,” Kawasaki said.
Kawasaki, whose venture capital consultancy firm is based in Palo Alto, Calif., even cited himself as an example of someone who once failed to see around the next technological curve.
He recounted how he was offered the chance to become CEO of a new Web-based business in Menlo Park, Calif., but turned it down because it was too far to drive and, he said, “I don’t see how it can be a business.” He then took the audience through a tongue-in-cheek “what if” scenario in which he accepted the offer, was eventually asked to leave and become an evangelist for another technology, and threatened to claim wrongful termination in order to extract a king’s ransom in stock options. He estimated that his lapse into bozocity cost him $2 billion, and admitted the company was Yahoo.
“Two billion here, two billion there, and sooner or later you don’t have to work,” he quipped. “I could not appreciate that the PC curve was different from the Internet curve.”
Kawasaki, one of the original employees of Apple Computer’s Macintosh Division, recalled how people in that division were not afraid to polarize people. Innovative products and services like Macintosh computers and TiVo, which angers advertising professionals because it allows television viewers to skip commercials, are typical examples. “You should not be afraid, as an innovator, to polarize people,” he said.
His version of innovation means doing things 10 times better, not merely 10 percent or 20 percent better, even if some elements of the innovation are “crappy,” Kawasaki said.
“As proud as I am about the first Macintosh we shipped, there were elements of crap to that computer,” he said, citing the lack of software, hard discs, and color. “Had we waited for chips to be fast enough and cheap enough, we would have never shared it.”