Soon Yu, Iconic Advantage
In this episode, I’m really excited to have on the InnovaBuzz podcast as my guest, Soon Yu, an international speaker and bestselling author on innovation and design, who has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Entrepreneur. His most recent book, Iconic Advantage, looks at some of the world’s biggest brands to uncover the secrets of creating iconic properties and maximising the value they create.
In our discussion, Soon talked to me about:
- The importance of focusing on relationships in driving innovation and change, and his own leadership strategy
- Building an iconic brand and business by becoming indispensable
- Why stinky cheese is important
Carla Johnson on episode 139 introduced us to Soon.
Listen to the podcast to find out more.
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Show Notes from this episode with Soon Yu, author of Iconic Advantage
Key points and take-aways from this episode include:
- Sometimes as an innovator, it is good to be lost because you end up finding things and collecting things along the way, and trying to integrate things that you didn’t think you were going to, because you were lost.
- It is less about how you failed but whether or not you’ve been able to recover from the failure with a growth mindset, versus one where you have victim mindset. The fact that you keep standing up and getting knocked down again, and standing up right after is a sign of both resilience and attitude.
- Go on a hunch! Try new things even if there is no guaranteed outcome coming from that.
- It is not necessarily about the strength or quality of the innovation idea. It is about the strength and quality of the people and their ability to get excited about it.
- It is not about making the idea yours but figuring out how to make it other people’s and other people that matter.
- Most innovation does not die because of bad ideas, or because of no consumer acceptance, or lack of marketing dollars. A lot of them die because of internal fear.
- Taking shiny new ideas and applying them against existing strengths and existing places where you have marketing momentum and capabilities makes innovation more successful.
- Iconic brands have 3 common qualities:
- Greater Distinction – there is something distinctive about them that made them stand out versus the competition.
- Timeless Relevance – their distinction is not just memorable but highly relevant and meaningful to the audience they want to be iconic to.
- Recognition – they are universally recognised for that distinctive relevance.
- It is not the biggest or fastest mouse trap that gets the mice. It is the one with the stinkiest cheese. Your goal is to have a signature that is really, really, stinky. One that is distinctive and stands out versus competition. You want that really stinky blue cheese and that’s what you need to go for. That is the first step you need to do and accomplish if you want to be iconic.
- Marry the old with the new. People love familiarity. If every two years you look totally different than what you had previously then you are not leveraging what your signature is.
The Buzz – Our Innovation Round
Here are Soon’s answers to the questions of our Innovation round. Listen to the interview to get the full scoop.
- #1 thing to be more innovative – Be curious. Have a growth mindset and have a mashup mindset.
- Best thing for new ideas – Get feedback. Listen for gaps. Whenever presented with options A and B, look for option C. That gives the best of both of A and B, and minimizes the worst of both A and B. In listening to other people, think of how you might take what they have said, their idea or their criticism, and incorporate it into what you have done. That is often where the best ideas come from.
- Favourite tool for innovation – Incorporating feedback. Have an executive coach. The most important tool for self improvement and being grounded about what is meaningful for you and your life is to have somebody that know you well enough to call BS on you.
- Keep project / client on track – Don’t always be in sell mode. Sometimes saying “I don’t think you need me for this, but I can help” actually works well.
- Differentiate – Think “stinky cheese”. You really want cheese that stands out. It is better to be indispensable to a hundred people than it is to be well known by million people.
To Be a Leader
Understand what makes you unique and special, and be relentless about innovating that. The hardest thing in innovation is there are too many things to innovate and knowing what to say NO to, and saying NO more than you say YES. If you can go broad and wide, narrow and deep with your innovation, you are going to get better innovation, better creativity, and you are going to own it more than other people.
Soon suggested I interview his co-author Dave Birss. So Dave, keep an eye on your inbox, for an invitation from us to the InnovaBuzz podcast, courtesy of Soon Yu.
Cool things about Soon:
- He has won company-wide awards for best advertising, best promotion and best new product, and gained industry recognition from the Webby Award, Favorite Website Award and Dope Award.
- He was recognised as a Northern California finalist for the prestigious Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award.
- He teaches at Parsons School of Design and often guest lectures at Stanford University.