Tag Archives: innovator

Fads – Group Think Gone Wild

Fads – Group Think Gone Wild

Fads tend to get a bad rap because their popularity may not have anything to do with the value of the item or the craze. Good examples are Hula Hoops, Pet Rocks, Lava Lamps, the Slinky and Beanie Babies. Pet Rocks and Beanie Babies don’t solve problems. They are just fun and unique. Sometimes people just want something that’s new and different.


A fad is an object or behavior that achieves popularity for a short period of time and then quickly fades away. Fads are group think gone wild. People tend to follow fads just because everyone else is following them, not necessarily because they need the item. And the more people who follow, the bigger the fad gets. 


But all fads start with what I call pioneers. Those are the people who want to be the first to do something or the first to buy a product that nobody else is buying. They are the risk takers who don’t care what other people think of them. They like the excitement of new ideas. Pioneers want to start trends, not follow them. They are the opposite of group think. This has always been me.


In high school I never wanted to be the person that jumped on the bandwagon, but the inventor and innovator who came up with a unique and original idea. I wanted to make money off of the fad. But that meant being the one to always take a risk. Being an inventor is risky, especially if you’re putting all of your own money into it like I did.


The first person to start a fad is often mocked and dismissed by society for coming up with a totally new and radical idea. If the idea becomes popular and makes a lot of money you’re rewarded and hailed as a genius. But if the idea fails you can be looked at as an idiot. Innovators aren’t afraid to look like an idiot. Sometimes over and over again.


But pioneers can’t launch a fad alone. They need early adopters, or trendsetters. These are also risk takers who don’t care what other people think of them. These were some of the first people to wear Croc shoes when everyone else said they were silly and goofy. The trendsetters didn’t care. They liked the fact that the shoes were comfortable and water-proof. They even went as far as calling the feeling “marshmallow fluffiness”. They liked the aerated holes that allowed their sweaty feet to breathe and their no-slip grip. These were people who were confident enough in themselves to ignore gawkers. 


Early adopters tend to be slightly less of a risk taker than the innovator, but they are very important in the chain of innovation because they tend to have a lot of social status. Many on social media have a good following and are thought leaders in their fields. People listen to them and value their opinions, so they are valuable in spreading the word about a fad. 


Followers of trendsetters tend to be less adventurous than the early adopter. But they are still important in getting a fad off the ground. Fads need as many people adopting them as possible. These followers like the excitement of following a fad once it starts to spread. They may not take that chance themselves, but will wait for some social proof and the trendsetters’ approval before they jump on the fad themselves. They like the idea of being a part of a spreading trend or craze and being a part of the crowd. They help to keep the momentum going. 


Once celebrity trendsetters started wearing Croc shoes, followers felt like it was “cool” to wear them also. They just didn’t want to be the first to take the chance. 


A fad will continue on its wave until the novelty wears off. And the group thinkers move on to the next big thing.




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What Type of Innovator Are You?

What Type of Innovator Are You?

In 1962 the book “Diffusions of Innovations” came out. It was a phrase coined by communications professor Everett Rogers to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology is spread through cultures. Rogers explained in his book that four main elements are responsible for spreading a new idea – the innovation, time, communication channels, and a social system.


A true innovator is someone who has the guts to be the first with a new idea and be fearless enough to stand up and defend that idea when everyone else thinks it’s crazy. The more radical the innovation is, the more likely you are to be ridiculed in the very beginning. Inventors are constantly pushing the envelope of what’s possible.


As an inventor sometimes I’ve felt like the only people who could really understand me are other inventors. Inventors are able to see what others miss, until of course, that new idea hits critical mass thanks to the trendsetting, early adopters.


Rogers lists the adopters of a new product as innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. Most people are very conscious about what other people think of them and hesitate to be the first one to try something until it catches on with the majority.


Early adopters of the Croc shoe weren’t wearing them because they were a fashion statement. Doctors, nurses, boaters, and restaurant workers were among the early adopters because they were super comfortable for people who were on their feet all day. But once they hit a critical mass that all changed.


The early adopters of the Croc shoe became evangelists. For an ugly shoe that started out as a footwear alternative for boaters, Crocs soon caught on as a mainstream fad, and the rest is history. They went on to sell millions.


What type of adopter are you?


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Innovation Lessons Companies Can Learn From the Pilgrims

Innovation Lessons Companies Can Learn From the Pilgrims

A pilgrim is someone who makes a long and difficult journey. As an inventor and innovator I have definitely found that journey to be a rough and rocky one, that has never gone as planned, and I’ve learned a lot of innovation lessons along the way.


For the 102 pilgrims that sailed from England to their new home in America, their journey didn’t go as planned either. To begin with, they arrived about 150 miles north of their destination and eventually ended up at Plymouth.


They faced many hardships, and over half of them wouldn’t survive. But the ones that did used their bootstrapping innovation survival skills to not only survive, but thrive in a foreign land many miles from home.


Here are some of the lessons they can teach companies about innovation:

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The Innovator Behind “A Christmas Carol”

The Innovator Behind “A Christmas Carol”

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley has withstood the test of time since 1843. The classic novella written by Charles Dickens, cuts to the heart of even the most jaded, and brings a ray of hope that the Christmas “spirit” is alive and well.


Dickens drew on his childhood memories living in poverty and incorporated the colorful characters of his neighborhood into his writing. After watching his father end up in debtor’s prison he vowed that would never happen to him. His hard work as a writer coincided with the prosperity and opportunities available during the industrial revolution.


Because of the innovations created during the industrial revolution such as the steam powered rotary printing press, and innovations in transportation, writers were able to keep up with consumer demand both in England and abroad.


Shortly before Christmas in 1843, Dickens found himself in debt, so he wrote a small book that he hoped would stave off his creditors. But his regular publisher turned the book down. So he took what little money he had left and self-published the book. He then hired an illustrator, oversaw the book cover, and did all of the marketing himself.


“A Christmas Carol” turned out to be a huge hit. And since Dickens put his own money into it, he kept 100% of the profits. Besides being an innovator in self-publishing, he invented the concept of publishing in serial form. His novels and novellas were the original soap operas of their day. He used the serial publishing technique to test out new characters and plotlines, based on audience feedback.┬áHe knew how to keep them in suspense, and did it with the use of the cliff-hanger.


He was also an innovator in sponsorship for writers, putting ads into his novels for brands looking for unique ways to market. His sponsorship ads sold umbrellas, jewelry, glasses, and insect powder.


To this day “A Christmas Carol” has never been out of print, and it’s timely message of giving from your heart never goes out of style.

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