Innovation Wasteland
June 3, 2014

Innovation Wasteland

by Brian de Haaff

Creating great products is invigorating. And employees who have a chance to be creative should be the happiest people on earth. But your company probably never fully benefits from your love of innovation, because you are beaten down by soft strategies, weak tools, and squishy communication. Is your company an innovation wasteland?

Forget all of that for a second and imagine if you had the opportunity to make every day Innovation Day or every week was like Hack Week. You could build the unexpected and breakthroughs are always unexpected. You would wake up every morning eager to build what matters, customers would be delighted, and your employer would profit.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about building the Minimum Lovable Product. But we all know that is only possible if you 1) have a higher purpose driving your work and 2) have the freedom to pursue it. The popularity of that post and the continuous feedback drove me to consider the following:

What are the characteristics of a company that pursues true innovation and lovable products every day — not just for one week every year?

So, I created a checklist after speaking with over 1,000 product and engineering leaders about Aha! to help separate the true innovators from the wannabees. How many of these 15 innovation characteristics are true for your company?

Complete the simple Aha! scorecard using YES and NO and see where you stand. The more times you answer YES, the happier you likely are and the more lovable your product is. There is a scoring system at the end to rate your results.



  • We start with the big ideas

  • Good product ideas are adopted no matter who suggests them

  • We are open to copying other ideas and improving them

  • We are recognized as thought leaders

  • We take calculated risks with our products


  • We have empathy for our customers

  • Our products are easy to use

  • We recommend best practices to our customers

  • We use our products internally

  • Customers love our support


  • Our products work

  • Employees prioritize fixing customer problems ahead of pushing their own agenda

  • Problems are clearly defined before solutions are sought

  • We often throw things out and start over

  • We measure how we are doing

Scoring system (count the number of YES answers to the 15 questions) 13+ Hack Week truly is every week 10+ Thought leader 6+ Sparks of genius <6 How do you spell innovation? ============================================

You may also be interested in taking this Aha! innovation test online and sharing the results with your colleagues. It will encourage discussion about how lovable your product is and how open the team is to true breakthroughs.

We all should have the opportunity to innovate every day. And if most of us had the chance, I think we would be happier and our customers would be delighted.
Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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