Why the Status Quo is Not Ready For Your Innovation?

Aaron McHugh

Moon Up Close by Gustavo (creative commons)
Moon Up Close by Gustavo (creative commons)

The more innovative the more barriers the status quo will erect in your way.
Guy Kawasaki

Innovation can be like
selling tickets to the moon

There is a direct correlation between how innovative your product (or idea) is and how many barriers you will encounter.

Every product faces barriers.

If you have personal experience with delivering a product or idea to market, I am confident that your journey was full of challenges.

Let’s agree that business is difficult.

And innovating anything takes time, effort, energy, smarts, marketing and money.

But New is not the same as Innovative.


[Innovation] + [Status Quo] =More Barriers In Your Way

Innovators see the future
before it’s possible

In 2005, my friend Vance Brown envisioned how gasoline pricing should all be controlled from a mobile phone.

There was no path, no map and no customers asking for the solution.

  • The Palm Treo was the only Smartphone on the market.
  • High-speed Internet connections were not available in most convenience stores.
  • Devices were not connected.

We started selling futures.

It was like throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what would stick.

In hindsight it was like asking someone if they would like to go to the moon.

Me:   “Would you like to go to the moon in the future?”

Prospective Customer:   “Yes, I’d love to.”

Me:   “Would you go ahead and pre-pay for your ticket now and then we will go build the rocket ship?”

(PC):   “Why don’t you come back when the rocket ship is finished and we can talk”?

Status Quo Erected Barriers

  • We like the way we’ve been doing it for 25 years.
  • It has never been done before.
  • The Internet is too slow.
  • It will never pass our security audit.
  • My staff will never get behind it.

It took us the better part of eight years to break down these barriers.

Guy advises to do whatever it takes

We adopted the Free Trial approach to get the software in the customer’s hands.

Once they could witness the Innovation first-hand, they were believers.

Our solution was not merely a nuance change. 

It was a revolutionary change to the customer’s core beliefs and day-to-day operations.

Innovative products are not easy to sell.

Incremental Improvement is not Innovation

I believe that the distinction of Innovative should be reserved for very few.

Key question:

Is there a model, a path, or a similar solution to follow?

Why the iPad mini is not innovative?

Examples of New but not Innovative:

  1. GoToMeeting HD video  HD quality video for your conferencing.
  2. iPad Mini  Smaller screen than iPad.
  3. The Samsung Galaxy phone  The biggest smartphone screen.

In each of these examples they already have customers buying a similar product.

  • Improve your video quality
  • Shrink your device size by 40%
  • Increase your screen

I don’t believe they are experiencing the kind of Status Quo barriers that Guy Kawasaki is speaking about.

Cool-Yes.  Innovative-No.

Innovation in the face of the Status Quo



No keyboard. Wi-Fi only.
Download from our App store.

Status Quo Barriers:

Obsolete soon, Already have a computer and smartphone,
No Flash, on AT&T, Too heavy, No camera, Too expensive.



Stop going to blockbuster,We will mail it to you or watch it over the Internet”.

Status Quo Barriers:

Started in 1997 with no peers.  Offered Pre-Paid Postage,
Limited titles, limited geographic coverage,
delays due to US mail, Subscription model instead of per title.


Accept a credit card for payment from anyone.

Status Quo Barriers:

Credit Card companies in control since 1950’s.
Old Model: Minimum fees per month and higher % rate per transaction.

Can you image the naysayers?

I wish we could have attended the meetings at Apple, Netflix and Square when some heretic announced his/her ideas for the above.

You can’t make a computer without a keyboard or disk drive.

You can’t mail a DVD.

Only businesses can accept Credit Cards.

Why the Status Quo usually wins?

It’s easier.

It’s easier to keep providing incremental improvement to existing products or services that customers are already buying.

It’s risky to create a product that cannot fit into an existing category.


Guy’s quote from his blog in 2006.

The way life should work is that innovative products are easy to sell. Dream on. Life isn’t fair. Indeed, the more innovative, the more barriers the status quo will erect in your way. Entrepreneurs should understand this upfront and not get flustered when market acceptance comes slowly. I’ve found that the best way to break barriers is enable people to test-drive your innovation: download your software; take home your hardware, whatever it takes.

Read more from Guy Kawasaki