Monday, June 22, 2009

Innovation: discover the profoundness behind simplicity

From Google, Facebook, to Twitter, the innovative businesses start with simple idea, but are developed in profound way. A secret of innovation is thus to discover the profoundness behind simplicity.

Above all, every great Internet business begins with a simple idea. The idea must be so simple that it requires less than 30 seconds to explain and the listeners get it and agree to its reality of value.

A sophisticated, profound idea may be a great science but it is unlikely a great business, especially a great Internet business. A great Internet business must engage at least millions of the ordinary Web users, who are often thought to be dumb, lazy, and possibly stupid (indeed, however, they are not, but they do seemly be so when they are not interested in some "smart" thought). If an idea is too complicated to be explained in 30 seconds, it cannot engage the "stupid" majority. Hence the service built up the idea (thought itself could be as great as the theory of relativity) cannot sustain.

But simplicity is far less than enough to assure success. A simple idea is easy to be copied, especially in the cyberspace. Hence simplicity by itself does not bear great business. The real thoughts behind the great innovative Internet services are the ones that can not only be "understood" immediately in 30 seconds by the ordinary listeners, but also be expressed further in another 30 minutes and still not totally understood by the same listeners. This is the profoundness behind simplicity.

Google was created on a simple idea---search information in the Web. Everybody seems "understand" the idea and agree to its reality of value. Indeed, however, few truly understood it before Google. Google discovered that the Web search was not just about finding answers, but more about to enable the information producers to produce the answers to be asked. The best search business is not the one that does the best on finding answers, but the one that allows and helps the information producers to directly produce the answers to be asked. Therefore, it bore the AdSense and AdWords, which directly connect the information consumers and the information producers. This is the profoundness behind simplicity.

Facebook was also based on a simple idea---make friends online. Everybody seems "understand" it and agree to its reality of value. But again, few truly understood it before Facebook. Facebook discovered that friend making was not just about allowing friends writing each other messages, but more about to explore one's self-potential in all of his social extents. The best friend-making service is thus not the one that does the best on communicating friends, but the one that allows a user to display all of his social abilities. Therefore, it bore the open platform, which transformed a friend-making board to a self-extending space. This is again the profoundness behind simplicity.

Twitter is the newest member in this innovative club. The service is based on a simple idea too. Instant messaging! Everybody seems "understand" it and agree to its reality of value. Still, few truly understood it before Twitter. Twitter saw that instant messaging was not just about sending a message from one to another instantly, but more about producing a network of real time information. The best instant messaging is not the one that can deliver messages the quickest, but the one that can weave all the instant messages to leverage their collective power. This is still the profoundness behind simplicity.

Do all these visionary founders pre-know the profoundness from the beginning? Actually, very likely the answer is no. For example, the Twitter founders still have not thought out their business model yet. These founders are not prophets. But what distinguishes them from the others is that they can sense, even it is unconsciously, the crucial profoundness behind the seemly simplicities. And thus they succeed.

Tell an idea to somebody. In 30 seconds he gets it, but in 30 minutes he still does not really know. This is thus an innovative business.

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