Being an innovator doesn’t always bring the greatest rewards. Being an innovator/maverick and breaking new ground can often be the route to only mediocre acceptance, not great success.
In The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (an excellent book I highly recommend) the phenomenon of trends is discussed, and at what point a product begins to break rank and become a runaway success. According to Gladwell the majority of huge social trends were not innovative new products but subtle variations and adaptations of existing ideas.
In Ready, Fire, Aim Michael Masterson compares Gladwell’s Tipping Point as a metaphor to the classic glass of water experiment: a full glass of water slowly has drops of water added to take the surface above the rim of the glass. The surface tension of the water bonds to form a mound, seemingly floating in the air higher than the glass. Eventually one drop too many will be added, the tension breaks and the water spills over the edge: the tipping point.
Socially there is a shared consciousness about what innovations society needs or wants. Innovators tap into this consciousness and create radical new products, being the first in the field breaking away from the herd. These products can make a small ripple but are usually absorbed into society without tipping the water over the edge.
The key to successful product development is being an early trend spotter. Finding the unique, new ideas already launched by an innovator, and adding your own improvements from initial social reactions. It’s actually being the number 2 where the power lies.
This brilliant Ted Talk by David Sivers: How to Start a Movement, demonstrates how it’s actually the second person who joins the group who is the real trend setter. It takes the first follower’s courage to validate person number 1 (potentially a lone crazy fool or leader) as someone we should take notice of. From this point the herd begins to follow, the trend begins, the tipping point arrives.
If you are searching for ideas of products to market or sell online don’t try to be a radical innovator. You need to be an early adopter of new ideas, just ahead of the crowd but just behind the leader.
As David Sivers said: “It’s the first follower that turns the lone nut into a leader.”