I've noticed that some authors like to talk about "syndromes" in order to refer to common problems or negative conducts inside an organization, group or individual that can affect a project’s success. Here are some "innovation syndromes" (put into my own words) that I've recollected:

Because-We-Can Syndrome: this means putting into a product certain functions or characteristics that are not really needed nor demanded, just because it is easy to integrate them. This can cause problems since consumers might consider the product a "gadget", misleads the product's functionality, or makes costumers think that it has unnecessary features for the price they are paying. (1)

Feature Creep Syndrome: occurs when inside a design team everybody wants their own feature (the one they invented or imagined) to be included in the final design. Sometimes this causes negative negotiations like: "I'll support your feature if you support mine". (1)

Kreskin Syndrome: Kreskin was a famous mind reader. This syndrome occurs when design teams or decision takers believe they know what is needed for success without any valid research. (1)

Lemming Syndrome: occurs when companies start to copy other companies’ new or trendy products that didn't actually satisfy a real consumer's need, leading all companies’ initiatives to failure. Its name comes from the myth that lemmings (little Arctic rodents) commit massive suicides when population density exceeds capacity - which is not true.

Not-Anything-New (NAN) Syndrome: when a company doesn't innovate at all, and even doesn't change its processes, mainly because of top management's decisions that kill emerging ideas, you will find either a lack of motivation and discomfort or employees that won't be able to create new value to the company when needed. Rutine, rutine, rutine!

Not-invented-here syndrome: is manifested as a lack of motivation when people who are going to execute a project (like a new product development) are not the ones that planned or conceptualized the project. This can lead to the project's failure.

The cure for all this syndromes is: INVOLVE THE COSTUMER!! Do research, ask around! You don't need a big research budget. It is true many times costumers "don't know what they need" and we can make them discover their own needs, or that sometimes we have to "educate" and transform behaviors for what thing should be. Take in mind that you don't have to drop a project because consumers tell you (although it is a red light), but you will always want to know what they are thinking before taking the risks!

Now here are some "syndromes" I've experienced:

Cantinflas Syndrome: occurs when clients do not clearly understand their value proposition and/or core business, creating new products or services that do not fit a strategy or portfolio. Those who suffer the syndrome consider they are constantly innovating but the fact is most products don’t generate any profit and are not suspended either… they just exist. Cantinflas was a Mexican comedian known for talking without actually saying anything, just causing confusion.

Castro Syndrome: Decision taking is centered in the owner (especially in small family based companies), without considering other's opinions. Decision is irrefutable as he/she “knows best” for new ventures, products or services. It’s a mixture of the Kreskin Syndrome with the Not-invented-here syndrome where ideas are imposed to be executed or rejected without real arguments. (I love the photo of Fidel with a bat).

La-Mano-de-Dios Syndrome: occurs when the organizational culture accepts that the end justifies the means, and takes it as a common practice. Some companies place their ‘innovation strategy’ in imitating or copying new products or services, reverse engineering or formula analysis of existing products… although it is a valid practice…well, it’s not the same, still don’t hate the player, hate the game! Diego Maradona scored a goal with his hand in a game vs. England during Mexico ’86 Worldcup, that led Argentina to victory. At an interview, Maradona attributed the goal to “God’s hand”.


(1) The Pitfalls of Product Design DevelopmentBy Bryce Rutter, CEO, Metaphase Design Group, Inc. January 2001 issue of DMI News.
(2) Sorry I don’t have the source.

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