Suppose you are a professional soccer player, chosen to kick the penalties for your team. And you scored only one out of seven penalties. Would you be satisfied? How long do you think your trainer and fellow players let you take penalties? They would probably kick you out of the team after the second failure in a row.

Innovation Guru Robert G. Cooper confirms in the 2011 edition of ‘Winning at new Products’ again that only one out of seven new product ideas is really a success in the market. For every seven new product ideas, about four enter development, 1.5 are launched, and only one succeeds. So only one out of seven official innovation projects reaches ‘the net’. The rest has been stopped, failed or are forever stuck in the back end of the innovation funnel. So, if one out of seven penalties is unacceptable in professional soccer, can we as innovators accept an effectiveness rate of one out of seven?

And it becomes even worse. The innovativeness of new products and services that do reach the market is becoming less and less. New-to-the-world products, the first in their kind and creating an entirely new market, represents only ten percent of all new products. And research shows this percentage is even shrinking (Cooper, 2011).

What really amazes me is that a lot of managers, practitioners and researchers seem to accept a one out of seven effectiveness rate. Wake up, innovators! It all starts by not accepting that this is normal.

Of course every one of us is optimising his or her methods and best practices. Actually there is a lot going on in innovation at the moment. Taking inventory of all the latest developments I came up with an impressive fifteen striking developments in Innovation. First of all there is ‘Sustainable Innovation’ which was the conference theme of ISPIM in Hamburg in 2011. ‘Business Model Innovation’ is a second development, being very popular in creating innovative services and web based concepts. ‘Service innovation’ is a hot topic, especially in more western type economies where seventy-five percent of the people is working in services. Closely related is the ‘Design Thinking’ trend, especially with new books on service design thinking. ‘Collaborative Innovation’ is another development, which has also connections with ‘Participatory Innovation’, ‘Social Innovation’ and ‘Employee Driven Innovation’. And some companies are exploring the trend of ‘Insourcing Innovation’ where on the other hand others are pursuing ‘Outsourcing Innovation’. Marketers are sponsors of what is being called ‘Brand Driven Innovation’. Innovation as result of the interaction among an ecology of actors is labelled as ‘Innovation Ecosystems’.Challenge Driven Innovation’ is also one of the new kids on the block, as is ‘Agile Innovation’ to speed up the process. Last but not least there is ‘Frugal Innovation’ which focuses on the needs of the bottom of the pyramid as a starting point.

But will these developments lead to a drastic increase in our rate of innovation effectiveness? I doubt it. Of course, we should not stop optimizing innovation. And at the same time we should be looking out for disruptive ways to increase effectiveness. My real insight how to create a surge in effectiveness came to me reading the biography of Steve Jobs. I was inspired again, by the famous words of the historical Apple campaign of 1997: Think Different.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Thinking differently should be a core competence of most of us managers, innovators and researchers. But why then have we not used this capacity to think of disruptive concepts to increase innovation effectiveness? I guess we have become too much part of the system itself. We are like fish, which are the last ones to discover they’re swimming in water.

So we should look for the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. They are the last ones to read Innovation Management or visit innovation conferences. They would hate them, probably! So we should be looking out for them. We should go beyond our borders ourselves. To observe and learn new insights, postponing our judgement. So go out there and find new innovation rebels in the style of George Best, Johan Cruyff, Paul Gascoigne, Eric Cantona or Maradonna, who will be great penalty kickers.

About the author:

Gijs van Wulfen (The Netherlands, 1960) is the founder of the FORTH innovation method. FORTH is an effective and structured method for ideating innovative products and services. The method is published in his inspiring and practical book Creating Innovative Products and Services’ (Gower, 2011).

He helps organisations to kick start innovation by facilitating the FORTH innovation method and advising companies on their innovation strategy, process and organisation. His clients are international companies in industry and services, as well as non-profit organisations in government and health. Gijs also trains facilitators in his method. His dream is to make FORTH the most used method for the front end of innovation around the world.

Gijs is a both presenter and chairman at several (international) innovation conferences, like the ISPIM Conferences and the European Conference on Creativity and Innovation. He is also founder of the yearly Dutch Innovation Conference on creating new products: ‘Nieuwe Producten Bedenken’.