There’s a growing trend that’s being called ‘complexity’. You’ll hear more about it as more people try to convince you that it’s a problem.

So, from me to you: innovation is as complex as you want to make it – and as simple.

Here’s the boring bit:

Complexity derives from the Latin word ‘complect’. It means (basically) to interweave or entwine. As a noun, it means intricate or a complicated association of related things, parts…

Simple derives from the Latin word ‘simplex’. It means the opposite to complex; easy to understand, deal with, use, having a single layer, base meaning “one”.

Now, I didn’t say innovation was easy. I said it was simple. Here’s my analogy: innovation is like climbing a 50ft rope and ringing a bell. Really simple (to understand) and really hard (to do). But not because it’s hard to agree how to innovate – because it’s hard to get it done.

There are two issues to think about:

  1. What problem does our customer want us to solve?
  2. How do we give them what they want? Not the same things.

If you make exhaust pipes, and all new electric car drivers want long-lasting batteries, you may find it tough to deliver without some investment.

If you make exhaust pipes, and all new electric cars can drive at 200mph, so they may all need roll cages – you already bend pipes and weld them together, so you’re back in business.

All you needed was a bit of insight, an enquiring mind and a way of drawing a line between where you are and where you want to be. It’s probably more accurate to say that you had to work out what the line of travel looks like between where you are, and where you must go to survive.

From making that strategic decision, it does get more complex. Marketing wants to spend money on a new brand; the communications plan needs to be assessed by umpteen creative agencies; someone has to write a social media strategy; Manufacturing needs a new widget; Distribution needs more trailers; Amazon sucks out too much margin; and so on…

But the easy bit was to decide what to do and what comes next. We call that a plan. The rest is just work.

There’s no denying that ‘complexity’ is a thing. There is more interconnectivity than ever before. The more it develops between every part of how you live and how you choose to interact with your customers, the more complicated the relationships become. Home monitoring, cloud computing, autonomous driving, app-driven communications, wearable technology recording your every heartbeat, entertainment distributors suggesting what you ‘might like’ to listen to, watch and read…

Every day we consume an estimated 100,000 words (roughly equivalent to a 300-page book) and we all trade in ideas ceaselessly: opinion through digital media; ideas from people claiming authority; comments on other peoples’ thoughts; conjecture by pundits; reporting by broadcasters; remarks from friends – and advertising.

But through all this there is a single, unavoidable and simple thing for you to do. You must decide what you want to be famous for. What is the one valuable product or service you want to deliver to your market. And there you go, your strategic direction and innovation strategy is set, and all the other things can begin to fall into place.

So, innovation is as simple and as complex as you make it. If we can help you to cut through the crap, please drop me a line and I’ll call you back.

Seeing it differently. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

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