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Innovation on TV: The Top 5 Innovation-Inspired Shows
TV, also known as “the little screen,” is not so little anymore. After all, TVs are no longer small, bulbous screens pushed aside to the corner of the living room. Not only are physical TV screens that measure 40 inches or bigger commonplace in modern homes but also the big name movie stars no longer shun TV roles and the number of new television shows has hit staggering new highs in recent years. But regardless of how smart or “lucky” you are, if you’re truly committed to growing your business through innovation and implementing an organized work culture of innovation at your business, it’s going to be a ‘round-the-clock job and you likely will have very little time for TV. Notwithstanding, when it comes to TV programming, “art” does often imitate life, and the popular topics and themes on television shows reflect what is relevant and trending in the “real world.” Innovation and entrepreneurship have been hot topics, buzzwords, and the 21st century iteration of the American Dream for some time now, and the increasing number of television shows about innovation and building your own business reflect this. Here’s your Cliff’s Notes version rundown on some of the most popular and talked about current TV shows about innovation.
Shark Tank: This hugely popular, Emmy award winning ABC reality TV show will begin its eighth season in September 2016. The premise of the show is simple: Shark Tank is essentially a hyper-fast business pitch competition where the “contestants” pitch their business ideas on live TV to a panel of investors known as the “sharks.” In other words, think of it like “American Idol”, but for venture capitalists and wannabe entrepreneurs. Rapid-fire deals are negotiated on the spot with the sharks using their own money to give entrepreneurs the funding they need to turn their dreams into million dollar realities.
Innovation takeaway: If there is any takeaway from the show, it’s this: while watching others succeed can be entertaining and inspiring, armchair entrepreneurship will get you nowhere. Innovation and entrepreneurship in business cannot be done vicariously or passively, it requires action and an unflinchable will to succeed no matter what. What’s keeping you back and on the couch while others succeed? Are you paralyzed by the fear of taking risks and failing? In the ten imperatives described in the innovation book Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, “No Risk…No Innovation” is arguably one of the most important. Without risk, there can be no innovation and in order to survive in a hypercompetitive market, a business must “innovate or die.” What type of person are you: the person who sits on the couch and lives vicariously through watching other people follow their dreams or are you willing to put in the work and the risk required to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams?
Beyond the Tank: This ABC show is the companion spin-off series to Shark Tank. Beyond the Tank catches up with entrepreneurs after they have landed deals on Shark Tank. The Sharks travel across the country to check up on the entrepreneurs, mentor them, evaluate their businesses, provide expert feedback, and ideally help the entrepreneurs make business decisions that will hopefully lead to long-term success, growth, and profits.
Innovation takeaway: No matter how brilliant your idea is; innovation can’t exist in a vacuum. In order to see an idea go to market and turn profits, the innovation must actually be implemented.
Undercover Boss: This popular CBS hidden-camera reality show, which has recently been renewed for an eighth season, has high-level corporate executives wear disguises and then secretly take bottom-level jobs within their company. As they are immersed in the nitty gritty day-to-day operations of their organizations, they learn how things really work and what their employees truly think of them and the organization. Some examples of bosses that have gone undercover include Joseph DE Pinto (CEO of 7-Eleven), Rick Silva (CEO of Checkers), and Sam Taylor (CEO of Oriental Trading Company).
Innovation takeaway: Innovation within a company should not be limited to corner-office executives, product experts, engineering departments, and Research & Development teams. In fact, these groups don’t always come up with the most innovative ideas; but instead, it’s often the employees on the front lines and out in the fields who do. When the undercover bosses worked with bottom-level employees at their organizations, they often learned that professional expertise and diplomas on the wall alone doesn’t lead to innovation and new product development. Instead, life experiences are just as valuable, if not more valuable to the innovation process.
Silicon Valley: Silicon Valley is a scripted comedic series on HBO that is partially inspired by show writer Mike Judge’s (who is best known for creating and starring in the animated series Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hills) experience as an engineer in Silicon Valley in the 1980s. Satirical in tone, Silicon Valley sheds light and laughs on the current socio-cultural start-up business industry. The show is about four programmers living together and trying to make it big with their start-up company in the high-tech modern day gold rush of Silicon Valley.
Innovation takeaway: The endless twists and turns and Murphy’s Law (what can go wrong will go wrong) plotlines of the Silicon Valley TV show underscore the importance of being agile when it comes to innovation. In this industry, change is inevitable and usually rapid. The route to success is rarely a straight line and as such, those who are most successful are the people who can quickly navigate when things go off course and are open and adaptable to changes.
StartUp: This new scripted show just premiered on September 6, 2016 on Crackle, Sony’s online streaming entertainment network. The show, starring Adam Brody and Martin Freeman, is about a controversial, tech-currency idea developed by three strangers who don’t fit your typical entrepreneur mold. IMDB.com’s pithy plot summary is as follows, “a desperate banker needs to conceal stolen money. A Haitian-American gang lord wants to go legit. A Cuban-American hacker has an idea that will revolutionize the very future of money itself. Forced to work together, they unwittingly create their version of the American dream – organized crime 2.0.”
Innovation takeaway: As an innovator, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty. And by dirty, we mean “hard work” not “criminal activity” or “dirty money.” There are times that you may get desperate but your judgment, but you can’t cross over the boundary between legitimacy and criminal activity or you’ll eventually pay the price one way or another. Make sure the only thing dirty about your venture or innovation is elbow grease and the burning midnight oil.
To learn more about how to achieve profitable growth through innovation and how to implement innovation at your company, check out the innovation books Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival and Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation.