Good morning.  Happy Labor Day.  I hope you’ll get a chance to relax a little today, no matter what work you do.  I also hope you get to work, if you’ve been idled or furloughed by COVID-19.
Every month, I want to force myself to pull out the latest Harvard business review magazine and
read through an article that I can share with you.
The article I fell upon today is Cultural Innovation: The secret to building breakthrough businesses, by Douglas Holt, former professor at Harvard and currently President of Cultural Strategy Group.
It did exactly what I hoped it would do:  make me think about related things and give me some more dots to connect.
Briefly, the context is that most companies take a “better mousetraps” approach to innovation, improving a product’s functionality.  Sometimes that’s just right and produces a big win – lots of tech companies have done this. 
But overall, the results are just average.
Holt’s different approach is a Cultural Innovation approach, where a company, often a start up, identifies a weakness in the existing category and then reinvents the category’s ideology and symbolism.  That Ideology and Symbolism really form the basis of any culture, whether corporate or societal.
The author cites two specific examples that really illustrate his point, and since I lived through both of them, I can attest that he’s right on the money.
The first is the Ford Explorer.  In the evolution of the “family sedan,” I guess it starts with the Model T and evolves into the station wagon.  During this period, we had lots of trucks and enclosed trucks or panel vans that were very utilitarian – built for work not for anything else.  But then, Chrysler creates the minivan and changed the game.  Minivans provide space and comfort and easy in and out access – the perfect vehicle for families with kids, and focused on the kids.
Because of that focus on kids, we kind of lost track of the parents, who in our youth still yearned for great adventures and we hated that we had to bend to the boringness of the soccer mom mobile. 
In the late 80’s Ford must have sensed this and started outfitting their enclosed F-150 with more creature comforts and 4 doors, and called it the Explorer.  Ford made $30 Billion off the Explorer before a tire-related/design-related set of failures led to a string of fatal accidents that destroyed the Firestone company and the 103-year-old relationship they had with Ford.  It was just the ticket for those parents who needed to shuttle kids, but could also pick them up from soccer practice and head to wilderness in all-wheel-drive safety.
The other example he provided was Blue buffalo pet food that turned the industry on its head by
focusing on ingredients you might eat yourself instead of how cute and energetic your dog was.  They got a boost when a wheat gluten problem with the big pet-food makers killed thousands of dogs and cats in 2007.  That’s a story for another day though.
The critical piece of this article to me is this paragraph:  Better-mousetraps innovation is guided by quantitative ambitions:  Out do your competitors on existing notions of value.  Cultural Innovation operates according to qualitative ambitions: change the understanding of what is considered valuable.
I love that.  Could you reshape you messaging by thinking this way?  You can see the article in Harvard business Review, September-October 2020.
Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.