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Impatient Innovators: 5 Hurried Innovations That Failed

Being told to “have patience” can be a major buzzkill in pursuing potentially innovative ideas. Nobody wants to hear that they’ll need to wait to see their innovations take hold and achieve success. Businesses have a schedule and a budget. They have investors and stakeholders. The pressure to apply

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
4 min read
Impatient Innovators: 5 Hurried Innovations That Failed

Being told to “have patience” can be a major buzzkill in pursuing potentially innovative ideas. Nobody wants to hear that they’ll need to wait to see their innovations take hold and achieve success. Businesses have a schedule and a budget. They have investors and stakeholders. The pressure to apply resources to a hurried innovation is relentless.

There are expectations. But Warren Bennis explained it best:

“Innovation—any new idea—by definition will not be accepted at first. It takes repeated attempts, endless demonstrations, and monotonous rehearsals before innovation can be accepted and internalized by an organization. This requires courageous patience.”

Unfortunately, far too many businesses (and humans, in general) ignore the importance of patience. They get sick of waiting, and they either rush a bad innovation to market or they give up on it altogether. A lack of patience causes big companies to miss out on even bigger profits, and smaller companies don't just miss out on profits, they often fold altogether.

However, by examining the failures of other businesses, we can more clearly see how patience affects both innovation and success.

Google Wallet

Many consumers believe Apple was the first to come up with the brilliant idea of paying for physical products with your phone, rather than your wallet. They weren't. Google made an attempt at bringing out a similar product, Google Wallet, several years ago. They just didn't have enough patience with it.

The company developed a beautiful product, but instead of holding out and negotiating and creating deals with phone and card companies, they released the product in a rush. Because these companies were not seeing a benefit, there was a backlash.

Card companies demanded large fees for digitizing credit cards, and phone companies blocked the service because they viewed it as a competitor to their own mobile payment options. And to make matters worse, Google Wallet required a specific technology to work, which phone manufacturers were sluggish to install.

They estimate that Google lost somewhere around $300 million in this catastrophe. But it all could have been avoided if they had patiently negotiated and worked with other industries to release this innovative idea in unison.

The iPhone 6 Phone Screen

Apple has achieved outstanding success through its innovative products. And historically, many of these products have been developed and manufactured on punishing timelines. Apple had this same goal for their iPhone 6 phone screens.

They partnered with GT Advanced Technologies, a company that had developed ovens to cook sapphire crystals into a phone screen to prevent cracking and scratching. The problem was that GT Advanced Technologies had never worked on such a large scale; they hadn't completely mastered the technology.

Instead of having patience and giving GT Advanced Technologies the time it needed to design and develop the technology and scale up, Apple rushed them. The result? The sapphire blocks, which had to be cooked in a sealed furnace for a month, came out broken, and they were never able to develop a method for slicing the blocks into a glass.

Apple wasted $1 billion on building the sapphire factory, and GT Advanced Technologies eventually filed for bankruptcy. The potential that this innovative idea had for the future of Apple phones was lost due to the fact that Apple didn't allow it the time it needed to succeed.

Nike FuelBand

Innovation and Nike go hand in hand. That’s why it was so shocking that their FuelBand did so poorly. The wearable fitness tracker market was estimated to sit at around $350 million by the end of 2013, but at that point, the FuelBand was only making up about 10% of that. By 2014, Nike started laying off the development specialists and engineers behind the FuelBand.

Nike continues to sell the device, but no longer invests in its development. This is where Nike went wrong. Instead of continuing to develop the device and pushing the innovation forward, they got impatient. They are now stuck with a wearable fitness tracker that has no unique features to set it apart from the competition and has no desirability factor with consumers.


This startup was beginning to create a lot of buzz in 2014 and 2015. It was a company that promised to further change and improve the concept of virtual assistants and save corporate clients a significant amount of money. The problem came down to impatience.

Instead of focusing on taking the time to build a strong board of directors and find a quality CFO, the CEO and founder hired hundreds of employees and launched. This weak infrastructure scared off investors, and Zirtual was left with no money to pay employees. Overnight, 400 people were fired and the assets were acquired by Fundable.

Microsoft Windows 10 Mobile

Decade after decade, Microsoft has set the scene for the future of technology. They wanted to do the same with the launch of Windows 10 Mobile—a brand new operating system. Unfortunately, Microsoft set itself up for failure by allowing internal impatience to create external impatience. Microsoft made a lot of lofty promises and release date announcements that they just couldn't keep. This then angered and frustrated users, who started to put more and more pressure on the company to release. By the time the product was finally released, no one cared.

If Microsoft had been patient, they would have been able to release a product that all users could have had access to, that had an easily locatable install application, that was easily installable, and that would have addressed the problems of earlier versions. Instead, their product did none of these things, and what could have been an innovative platform turned into a product that a lot of users didn't have access to. As for the users who did have access to it still didn’t live up to the expectations.

Hurried Innovations

While Zirtual may not ring a bell, Microsoft, Google, Nike, and Apple certainly will. These companies' stocks are some of the most valuable in the market. They all have a lengthy history of success and innovation. However, even these giants have hit stumbling blocks. This doesn't show that Google and Apple aren't leaders in their industry; it simply shows that no matter how big or successful a company is, patience is a hard habit to learn. In most cases, the difference between a good idea and a breakthrough idea is not the idea itself—but the timing. You may have a great idea, but if you don’t have the patience to give that idea the time it needs to develop, you likely won’t create the killer innovation you’re hoping for.

To get more information about how to integrate the law of patience into your organization's innovations, check out Techtrend, an innovation agency, with the experience and expertise.


Phil McKinney Twitter

Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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