Reshaping The Innovation Narrative

Book Review: ‘Blind Spots’ and the Future of Business

Back Article Dec 27, 2017 By Michael Scott

Today’s world of free enterprise has never been more robust. Yet startup activity in the U.S. is at a 40-year low, according to statistics derived from U.S. Census Bureau data. More businesses are dying off than being launched daily, indicative of a broken innovative economy.

This narrative is the theme of a new book, The Innovation Blind Spot written by entrepreneur and venture capitalist Ross Baird. In this 240-page read, Baird lays out the premise that many innovations that truly matter never see the light of day — due to what he calls “blind spots”, which hinder meaningful solutions.

This book looks through a venture capitalist lens to assess how we determine which big ideas achieve the highest attention. It asserts innovation suffers from three blind spots. The first is tied to how we pick new ideas. The second with where we discover new ideas and who we invest in. And the third is concerned with why we invest in new ideas to begin with.

According to Baird, the dynamics of this three-pronged set of blind spots can stymie the potential of innovation, leading to untapped companies, untapped markets and untapped industries. Most great ideas, he attests, never even get on an investor’s radar.

Says Baird: “We artificially separate our jobs and our careers from our values. When we integrate what we do with why we do it, we get better results.”

The book’s forward delivered by entrepreneur, investor and businessman Steve Case, best known as the co-founder and former chief executive officer and chairman of AOL Inc. assesses the book. “The best-connected people in the most resource-rich places are awash in opportunity, but most aspiring entrepreneurs don’t have a chance. Investors everywhere have blind spots, and as a result, we’re overlooking most great ideas.”  

Case authored a complementary book, The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future, which became a New York Times best-selling book in 2016.

“Three-quarters of venture capital goes to founders in just three states: New York, California and Massachusetts. Some 10 percent goes to women founders and just 1 percent to African-Americans. That’s not right—and it’s not smart. We need everybody on the playing field if we’re going to remain the most innovative, entrepreneurial nation in the world,” Case says.

Take MeetMindful, a Denver-based lifestyle dating app that is popular among the spiritual, green living, nature-minded ilk. Despite its growing reputation as an alternative to what seems like an endless sea of dating sites, its geographic locale might put it at a distinct disadvantage in terms of market positioning and funding opportunities. To Case’s and ultimately Baird’s point, MeetMindful will likely face an uphill battle in the funding world, against the likes of Tinder (West Hollywood, Calif.), eHarmony (Los Angeles), and OKCupid (New York City) which are located in major market investment cities.

This supports the point that a strategic investment advantage exists in only a handful of cities where a tight circle of decision makers appoint those who will get a shot at success.

Most investors are “two-pocket thinkers”— key players who artificially separate their charitable work from a great intent on making a profit, according to Baird. The Innovation Blind Spot describes how this scenario leads to rising income inequality, stifled entrepreneurial ambition, social distrust, and political uncertainty, factors that run counter to a robust business economy.

The Innovation Blind Spot ultimately demonstrates how and where to find better ideas by redirecting the spotlight to people, places and industries that are often overlooked. Baird explains how to foster long-term success by eliminating the blind spot that exists between“what we do for a living” and “what we really care about.”

Ultimately, Baird’s message champions the critical importance of identifying and promoting entrepreneurs and innovators everywhere, not simply those who went to high-profile schools, are in the right social circles, and live in innovation centric locales.

Baird writes in his introduction, “We need more founders from diverse backgrounds, more companies from places outside the hotbeds of Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston, and a better understanding of how to build companies that deliver a holistic view of value—to their shareholders, to customers and to society.”

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