“Influencers” help ensure good ideas are adopted and key opportunities are not missed

History tells us that the executives at Xerox and Kodak blew it.

Four decades ago, Xerox researchers invented the graphical user interface that became the cornerstone of the personal computer – but senior managers chose not invest in the technology. Apple and Microsoft are forever indebted to them.

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Kodak invented digital cameras – but its managers stubbornly refused to abandon its focus on film. Nikon, Canon and all smartphone companies are the beneficiaries.

 

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With Xerox and Kodak, “the ideas were there, but the ability to influence the strategic direction of the organisation to take advantage of those ideas … was missing.”

Five factors have emerged as the keys to the adoption or rejection of new ideas.

Relative advantage: how much better is an idea or product than the offerings of the existing market leader?

Compatibility: to what extent is the concept a logical extension of the status quo?

Complexity: how easily can people understand the new idea?

Trial-ability: how hard is it to implement?

Observability: how discernible are the results to those testing the idea?

Get all five ducks in a row and the chances are that the idea will be accepted.

If people are convinced of an idea’s merit, they will champion it and help build on the strategy. Part of the counter-intuitive technique of successful influencers is to not force concepts or answers on people.

As the Xerox and Kodak examples illustrate, the multiplier effect of not having insightful influencers in a business can be significant. Great new ideas or products can sit on the shelf or be taken up by others, profits can disappear and employees can lose out because their value to a company is underutilised.

Those companies didn’t see it coming …

The following companies could have done with smart influencers to prevent their fall from grace.

Nokia

Once the biggest-selling mobile phone company in the world, the Finnish company put its head in the sand about the emergence of smartphones and is now a poor cousin to Apple and Samsung.

Firestone

The revered American tyre company had warnings about the impact that radial tyres would have on the market, but it resisted changes to production methods and, by the late 1970s, was in financial trouble.

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