As I write this, I am in Las Vegas, a place sometimes referred to as Lost Wages.
For the past two nights, I hit the blackjack tables for some fun. Fortunately I am ahead…so far.
I like blackjack because it is a game of probability – and only probability.
It is fun to watch other players. Some people are superstitious. They believe that if someone else at the table is playing poorly (i.e., hitting when they should stick and vice versa) it will negatively impact them. This is not true, at least not in the long run. Their brain fools them. (to learn why read this article on article on intuition)
Blackjack is just a probabilistic model.
Even so, some players continue to make bad decisions. For whatever reason – sometimes it is because of a gut feeling – they will throw the probabilistic models out the window. They might stick on a hard 16 against a 10 because they are afraid of busting (going over 21). They might not double down on an 11 against a dealer’s 10 because they don’t want to risk losing more money. Or they might stick on a soft 18 against a 10, because 18 feels like a good hand. For those of you who don’t know blackjack, all of these will be losing strategies in the long run. We can be fooled by our brain.
If you consistently play the right strategies, you will always play your best. It certainly does not mean you will win each hand. And it does not guarantee you will be ahead in the end. But over a long period of time, where probabilities even out, you have the best odds.
Innovation is the same. It is a probabilistic model. Just as you can’t win every hand, not every innovation will be a winner. But if you play the right strategies, you will be ahead in the long run.
Admittedly, unlike blackjack there are no hard and fast rules, like “always split 8s.” But there are rules that will increase your chances of winning.
My most recent animation video provides three strategy: 1) Innovate where you differentiate. 2) Don’t think outside the box, find a better box. 3) Don’t rely on experts for breakthrough innovation.
But there are many others. Don’t fail, experiment. Beware of confirmation bias. Don’t use best practices as an innovation strategy. And many, many others.
The brain is not wired for innovation. The brain is wired for survival. Playing it safe and perpetuating the past is the brain’s natural default process. Unfortunately this often leads to bad decisions; not playing the odds.
Just as there is never a guarantee that you will win at the card table, you can never be certain that your innovations will be successful.
But if you play the odds and use the right strategies, you at least increase your probability of success.
P.S. My book, “Best Practices Are Stupid” provides 40 strategies for increasing your probability of innovation success.