The 3 P’s of Innovation

If marketers have one failing (just one you ask?) it is our love of lists. Marketing’s 4 P’s (price, product, place, promotion) morphed into longer lists of p-words that seemed to work on the principle of ‘My list is longer than your list.’ (add power, people, performance, presence, pr,…) Long lists successfully masked the larger universality of the original 4 P’s adding to the departmentalization of marketing. So to try and reclaim lost ground we get holistic marketing from Kotler/Keller (no list slouch themselves) and the 3 V’s.

Marketing involves satisfying consumers’ known (and subconscious unknown) needs. The 3 V’s is a value creation and delivery sequence to get marketers back to thinking about the whole package. As put forward by Lanning/Michaels at McKinsey & Co. the 3 V’s include ‘Choose the Value’, ‘Provide the Value’, and ‘Communicate the Value.’

I like holistic reminders of what a job entails, but they run the risk of becoming trite boundaries to innovation when the words can be used to limit rather than expand. I imagine that many educators regret the phrase that claims teaching is explained by the 3 R’s (Reading, [W]riting, and [A]rithmetic) and I think journalism has become much more complicated than the 5ish W’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why, How). While those maxims are fundamental (you better not forget to teach ‘rithmetic or ask ‘who?’) they should be interpreted as launching pads, not definitions.

So if we want a mantra to help make sure that innovation moves forward personally or in a company what can we use?

I like:

Perspiration, Perseverance and Perspective

Reminders that any organizational structure you develop to push innovation must support the need for heavy lifting, focused development, and negotiating barriers.

Perspiration germinates from Edison’s quote:

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

It takes hard work to be in a position to have a great idea, let alone implement it.

Perseverance we can see from almost any inventor, but I like this pull from a Les Paul interview where he was describing his two year search for just the right echo used in “How High The Moon.” He had been working on it for two years when one evening while acting distracted a friend, Loyd, asked where his mind was. Les said he was still thinking about getting the echo:

“…he says, ‘Are you still worried about that thing?’ and I say, ‘yeah, I need it, I need it and I just don’t know how to get it.’

Obstacles are a fundamental part of the innovation process and Les Paul’s life shows how determination and perseverance can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. (Had to finish several of his records in a body cast able to move only his thumb on one hand… Puts a fight with accounting in perspective, doesn’t it.)

Perspective happens in a number of ways. I think Walt Disney had a handle on this:

“A good many of the men misinterpret the idea of studying the actual motion.   They think it is our purpose merely to duplicate these things.   This misconception should be cleared up for all.   I definitely feel that we cannot do the fantastic things, based on the real, unless we first know the real. “ 1935 Memo to develop training class for animators.

Perspective is critical because innovations can create organizational myopia in which purpose and value identifiers can be warped in ways that unnecessarily delay an innovation or cause opportunities to be missed in the development process. As Scott Anthony mentions in a recent post: “…people who have deep knowledge about a topic sometimes assume other people have that same knowledge.” This can lead to failed assumptions about what customers actually care about.

So the 3 P’s of innovation in my mind have nothing to do with checklists. They are about hard work, focused dedication and, most importantly, being open to the real world changing things up.

How does this actually add to the toolbox for dealing with the uncertainty paradox?

I’m going to close with a quote from Les Paul that didn’t quite fit above but I just loved:

“…Why – and that’s the key to the whole thing. That curiosity. You just ask that question, “Why?” and you’ve got your life cut out for you.” Les Paul on 9/14 Fresh Air rebroadcast with Terri Gross.

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8 Responses to The 3 P’s of Innovation

  1. Brad Shorr says:

    Hi Fred, Yet another brilliant post! Your 3 P’s make perfect sense, and wouldn’t it be amazing if an organization could be a perfect “10″ in each one? Seems to me that perspective would be the most challenging discipline for a large organization, because so much goes on internally that requires continuous attention.
    .-= Brad Shorr´s last blog ..A Collection of Funny Word Sell Posts =-.

    • Hi Brad, So much of this ends up being personality based. When I first started out I could see all the pro’s and con’s of everybody’s opinion and ended up looking as focused as a wet noodle. Distinguishing between the different ‘right ways,’ picking one and moving forward trips up a lot of people and large corporate environments make it even worse. I’m not sure any company can be all 10′s all the time. More like the aligning of stars. You work to balance out the factors and hope to get them lined up at just the right time. Thank you for your kind words!

  2. LaVonn says:

    Excellent post…I think so many times people use lists like these the wrong way — as ends instead of means. While the story may start with the 5 W’s (if I a remember my journalism classes correctly!) they certainly don’t end there. The 3P’s are excellent because they are a “thing” but a way of thinking and acting….they are the means by which one can innovate within any boundaries!

    • Thank you LaVonn. That’s also why I’ve gone back to look at the 3 v’s mentioned. They are interesting constructs that help you decide where you are in a process and what you should be looking out for, but not limiting your scope.

  3. J.D. Meier says:

    I’m a fan of frames and mental models, too and Perspiration, Perseverance and Perspective is perfect.

    I actually keep a catalog of models from A-Z for various disciplines. It helps me quickly hone in on distinctions or strategies and get thinking in the right direction.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..The Power of Patterns and Practices =-.

    • Hi J.D., Your blog is a fascinating place to find those models. I’ve been wondering how you keep them straight as you have been developing your work. Glad this rings a bell.

  4. Davina says:

    H Fred. Perspiration, Perseverance and Perspective compared to the 4Ps is metaphorically like putting the driver and the human component in the driver’s seat. What’s neat about this too is that when a person is prepared to put forth the Perspiration, Perseverance and Perspective, things “happen” — it brings those “P” lists to life.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..The Thyme of My Life =-.