The Innovators Curse: The worst idea is the innovation you failed to sell.

11 12 2012

I am known as an innovator who carries the original entrepreneurial spirit of our family business that my father, Stan Sussman, had his whole life.  While being looked at as the “idea guy”, the “innovator” or the “champion of change”, I realize that the reputation is not self-proclaimed.  It took years to earn and is a responsibility to maintain.   I have been innovating throughout the first 17 years of my journey as a corporate executive at PFP, our family business.  But it has not been an easy road to hoe.

Innovator Brain

The innovation training-ground. (1995-2001):

Ignorance was bliss!  I had an audience of one.  By convincing Stan, who was President at that time, that an idea had merit, he had the power to give me the green light.  He created an environment where I could build my innovative muscle without killing the golden goose.  I worked well outside the core operations of PFP.  I pursued ideas designed to build a new empire.  He controlled the investment of time and money.  If I struck gold, we would all benefit.  If I were able to build a successful division outside of the core operations of PFP, it would be great for the second generation of the family business.   I was a willing pioneer.

Innovate by starting a new Department!  (2001-2007):

A fledgling department is an innovator‘s playground.  I took on two new departments in 2001.  Innovations in these areas began to flow freely.  However, the origin of the ideas shifted from me alone to include those folks who were also part of the team.   We all knew that ideas were welcome and could come from anywhere.  The goal was to “build” something incredible.

I was able to effectively “own” an innovation laboratory within the company by running the two divisions.  I was able to control the resource allocation within the department and was successful in developing a strategic innovative partnership between PFP and our “big-brother” insurance carrier.

However, I began to experience the “innovator’s pain” along the way.  One may call it pushback, channel conflict or political infighting.  I contend that key leadership had a lack of buy-in, reluctance for change or a need to control.  The bottom line is that I was not frustrated alone.  Perhaps I didn’t lay the groundwork to get buy-in?   Perhaps I was an immature innovator!  The result was that the innovations brought forward through my effort created friction among the core leaders of the company.   Something had to “give”.


Innovate within the core operations (2007-Present)

As successful innovations became a larger percentage in the annual budget (both revenue and expense), the process became more intense.  No longer was I an island able to remain walled off from the rest of corporate civilization.  The ideas were bigger.  Their impact spanned throughout the organization.  The stakes skyrocketed.  So did the frustration.

Since more was at stake, my partners challenged the ideas more significantly.  There was an enhanced need for multi-departmental buy-in as key executives and officers controlled resource allocation and essentially held up progress.  The required collaboration from top management and ownership could no longer be met head-on by me.  I had to do something about my reputation as a “bully” or “run-away freight train” or “closed-minded psychopath”.  I consistently wondered what was wrong with these people?  How could they not see what I was able to see?  I wanted everyone to just “do it”.  That wish, of course, did not come true.  While I knew I was an asset to the organization, was the pain associated with innovation worth it?  This was a personal question I needed to resolve.


It is now December 2012 and I have been more effective innovating during the past five years than any other time in my career at PFP.  I figured out how to break the innovator’s curse.  The secret is simple.  I changed my attitude significantly, developed some and eliminated specific communication skills, utilized existing presentation and relationship-building skills and continually self-reflected.  I became better at what I do.

How did I do it?  That is explained in detail in my next blog titled “The Innovators Cure: The best idea is the innovation you effectively sell!”

If you, your company, your industry conference or team is in need of the best keynote speaker, motivational management consultant, or inspirational presenter for your conference, strategic planning meeting or for professional development, click on these words and see how Eye-Cubed-U is prepared to help you. 




4 responses

11 12 2012
Want to innovate

Looking forward to the continuation. Please keep it up. Your insights based on real experiences are invaluable.

11 12 2012
David Sussman

Thank you for the encouragement. The Eye-Cubed lessons have been learned over the years and I look forward to continuing to bring them to you. Please take the time to spread the word about the University. I believe it will grow into a powerful resource for innovators and leaders throughout the world.

12 12 2012
Rob Reilly

Mr. Sussman,

I’ve been in “the curse” for a while, myself and have known that selling my ideas, has been a weakness. There’s certainly no quick fix. Looking forward to your thoughts and insight.

Keep up the good work.


12 12 2012
David Sussman

You are right. “The curse” is frustrating. Your innovations are invaluable and your challenge is to find a way for them to break through. I will gain strength by your hard work and hope to give you ideas on how to build upon your strengths and add new ones to draw upon. Thanks for reading and appreciating the Eye-Cubed message.

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