In the early days at Lifesize, a couple books were handed out to all employees. One was Purple Cow by Seth Godin which discussed the power of being unique in a world where everything looks the same. Hooked. This is the second of three parts in my "mini" innovation series & the theme is to be different.
Clayton Christensen introduced his theory of disruptive innovation 20 years ago. I'd like to share my thoughts on the subject over a 3 part series of short posts. The 3 parts will be:
- Non-linear change. Setup the environment where innovation accelerates.
- Relentless innovation. This post. The power of continuous improvement.
- Disruptive innovation. Did video conferencing live up to the hype of being disruptive?
The Lifesize marketing team started using the term relentless innovation liberally in 2010 to describe the engineering team and the products they produced. Looking back, it was a good description. A quick recap of these products and impact according to me.
- 2005 - Shipped first 720p30 HD system, Lifesize Room. The party gets started.
- 2007 - Shipped Lifesize Express. Cost cut in half. Channel hated it, but turns out to be workhorse.
- 2009 - First 720p60/1080p30 HD system AND Lifesize Passport. High & low strategy. Entry level cut in half again. The 220s are still competitive in 2015. Passport was a commercial disappointment.
- 2010 - Organic expansion into infrastructure with Videocenter and Bridge. Technical excellence.
- 2011 - First to move to virtualized infrastructure (UVC). Added mobile. First cloud offering (Connections). Introduced $1000 HD endpoint. Channel not quite ready for any of this!
- 2012 - First to bring virtualized HD bridging. Integrated "iPhone like" conference phone. Explored and failed in the furniture business with Unity line. Virtualized bridging is truly disruptive piece.
- 2013 - Highest performance endpoint ever, Icon. The beginning of connected devices & third journey.
- 2014 - Lifesize Cloud launched, with new releases every 3 weeks. More cowbell.
- 2015 - Amplify launches. Icon Flex, New phone HD launches, WebRTC launches, .... you get the idea.
As I look back, this might be the most prolific team of engineering I've ever worked with, and I've been lucky to work with some great teams. It was a relentless pace. We never missed a product cycle. It was successful for several reasons.
First, most of us didn't know what was possible (or maybe a better way to think about it was we didn't know that some things were almost impossible yet we did them anyway). A beginner's mind. Certainly the original Room, Passport & Bridge fit this description.
Second, we didn't follow anybody else. Rarely did we tear apart a competitors box. We built things we wanted to use. We didn't use focus groups to tell us what to build. We strived to be different. When we deviated from that it was often a mistake.
Third, our teams were small but they had a history of shipping products (even long before Lifesize). We designed reusable components that served us well to get a ton of product leverage in adjacent spaces.
Fourth, we were fearless and unapologetic as it pertained to product line protection (both ours and our competitors). Routinely we obliterated pricing (maybe a mistake). We quickly moved from purpose built to virtualized to cloud (maybe too fast). But you couldn't fault us for building.
Fifth, we shipped often and early. Too early in many instances. We were MVP before it became a popular part of the vernacular. The role of product people is to ship ... and we did that.
Beginner's mind. Don't follow. Small teams. Fearless. Ship. All characteristics to carry forward to the next gig. Add learn from mistakes.
Relentless innovation? Yes.
Disruptive innovation? No. That's what I'll tackle next week.