Why Innovation Requires Salespeople

lightbulbs-over-womanNew Yorker magazine had an article by Atul Gawande describing how innovation spreads. While we are accustomed to think of technology as “changing the world,” those changes only take place because of, well, salespeople. As Gawande explains:

“In the era of the iPhone, Facebook, and Twitter… we want frictionless, “turnkey” solutions to the major difficulties of the world–hunger, disease, poverty.  We prefer instructional videos to teachers, drones to troops, incentives to institutions.”

This concept that technology changes the world is fundamentally flawed, however.

“People follow the lead of other people they know and trust when they decide whether to take it up.  Every change takes effort, and the decision to make that effort is a social process.” (Emphasis mine.) In other words, innovation spreads from person-to-person, even when people are made aware of that innovation through mass media. That’s why advertising a crummy product is always a waste of money. 

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Geoffrey James

Geoffrey James

Geoffrey James, writes a daily column for Inc.com and is the author of the newly-published book Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

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