The vow to wow


Illustration by REY RIVERA

Every nation that has progressed has done so through innovation. In the US, Japan and many other countries, innovation after innovation have made their lives not only easier but more prosperous. In fact, a lot of the wealth of these countries was brought about because their citizens innovated and the world bought their products.

Innovation was the story of the 19th and 20th centuries. Wave upon wave of new scientific discoveries led to actual product development that reached the marketplace and generally made life more convenient, efficient and productive. The automobile, the airplane, the microwave oven, electric toasters, television, etc. have shaped the evolution of man. One can say, for example, that Wi-Fi and the Internet comprise parts of man’s new nervous system in the sense that anything that happens in the world now can affect him almost instantly.

And yet, there seems to be something ancient and “outmoded” about innovation. Umair Haque, a writer and strategist for media and consumer industries, refers to innovation as a “relic” of the industrial age. No doubt, innovation as the power concept was the blueprint that brought us to where we are now. He proposes, though, that there is something new on the horizon and it may require that we innovate innovation itself if we are to move forward.

It is not enough, for example, for businesses to be purely entrepreneurial in approach. They can’t continue doing their job of selling with just profit as their bottom line. This kind of thinking, Haque argues, churns out products that offer little in terms of anything fundamentally new. And to make it worse, this mindset leads to a lot of pollution and waste without really changing consumers in a fundamental way.

“Innovation means, naively, what is commercially novel,” Haque points out. It does not change anything fundamentally. It merely “variates” on already existing themes. Thus, you have “new, improved” consumer products that have not really changed in any meaningful way in years. Look at your toothpaste, deodorant, even your car.

What we need now is not just the entrepreneurial spirit to innovate but the creativity to make really new stuff. Where the old concept of innovation largely improved things, adding creativity would create game-changing products and services. Haque calls this radically different concept of doing business, the ability to create awesomeness.

Awesomeness, according to Haque has four pillars.

The first is ethical production. The services and products we make and sell must be mindful of their impact on the world in many ways. Body Shop is an awesome company because it helps indigenous people in the Amazon develop ingredients while saving the forests.

The second is about making “insanely great stuff.” We all know what it’s like when we come across products that not just surprise and delight us but also change how we do things fundamentally. The iPhone and iPod, and now the iPad, are just some of them. Most people now buy their music through iTunes. The concept of going to a geographically existing music store to buy albums is fast disappearing. These Apple products have certainly given us a new way to engage the world.

The third pillar is love. How awesome is that? Haque points out that people who work in Apple stores, for example, are so excited to show the awesomeness of their products, versus those who work in other electronics stores who simply want your money. They love their work and their products, and it shows.

The fourth is about adding not just value but “thick value.” This is not about merely improving a product by adding bells and whistles, as has usually been done. That merely creates “thin value” which is not great or lasting. Thick value means thinking about the customer and innovating the product with love. People who make thick value can’t wait to share the awesome experience of their products or even their upgrades with the world.

Awesomeness is something we recognize when we see and experience it. It changes us and gives us a depth of experience that is delightful and fundamentally new. This experience can only be created when the people who are making the products or offering the services love what they do.

We have seen awesomeness throughout history. Shakespeare, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Picasso were awesome. In my list of contemporary people, I would put the Beatles, Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, Chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli restaurant, Quincy Jones, Manny Pacquiao, Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama in my pantheon of awesome people. There is something cutting-edge and magical about them that is probably why they are leaders in their field. They engage us not only on one level, but touch us in ways that catch us, not just in awe of them, but also in awe of ourselves when we enjoy what they offer and root for them.

Umair Haque calls these four pillars the Awesome Manifesto. If there is a phrase to summarize it, I would call it “The Vow to Wow.”

This mindset of awesomeness, wherever it is applied, asks its adherents to show up in the world at their most creative, open and engaging best. Its aim is to change things while surprising, delighting and inspiring its audience. It is never condescending by selling anything that is mediocre or average. What it offers must have that “wow” factor, the ability to make you rave, and convert you to become an involved and engaged fan or even a disciple.

I have to admit that Apple products affect me in exactly these ways. The reviewers of the new iPad point out that despite its flaws, the iPad can engage you on an emotional level, so much so that once you hold it in your hands, you can hardly let go of it. Can the love the engineers, scientists, planners and awesome people at Apple have for their work pass this on to the products they make? I believe so.

Through the prism of everyday life, one might say that being awesome is all about being creative, open, happy and sharing that happiness with people we encounter. It is infectious, contagious and can get people you meet emotionally engaged with you. Some might say it is charisma. I think it is more than that. The love factor plays a big role in it.

Awesome people are what we need to experience the world as an awesome place.

* * *

Have you been shooting pictures almost exclusively with automatic settings? Do you fully understand the buttons and functions your camera has to offer?

I will be giving a workshop on Basic Photography. This will be a hands-on experiential approach which will cover basic knowledge of the DSLR camera and its functions, techniques on lighting for outdoors, indoors and including studio lighting, composition, the use of different lenses, portraiture and landscape techniques, motion or action photography, and a whole lot more.

This is a one-day workshop only from 1 to 7 p.m. We will proceed immediately to shooting pictures as we discuss the theories. I will work with a limited number of students only.

To join, you must have a DSLR digital camera capable of manual settings.

Date: May 2, 2010

Time: 1 to 7 p.m.

Place: 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC

Cost: P3,500

Please call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 (ask for Ollie) or e-mail me at for questions and reservations. Leave your contact details when you e-mail to reserve a slot.

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david french
david french
10 years ago

I think you are missing the point. Innovation is not dead. It is the misuse of the word innovation. Look on linkedin. I see thousands who call themselves innovators. Yet only about 1% who actually can pass the definition as stated by Mr. Webster many many years ago.
Truly innovative efforts are constantly underway from some corporations to backyard tinkerers. What has happened is that fortune 100 companies marketing departments got ahold of the word and devalued it. P&G, SC Johnson, Kraft Innovtive….hardly. Still remember laughing myself silly when they called “Lunchables” Innovative and a food Invention.

Nurse Line
10 years ago

helo po x-links po tayo.. bago palang blog ko.. tnx..

Denise Vergara
Denise Vergara
10 years ago

I Hope that you will schedule a workshop din po dito sa sydney.