Steve Jobs understood the importance of saying no in order to focus resources better. When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he cut many of the company’s products. At the time, Apple had 350 products it was marketing, but within a two-year period, Jobs reduced that number to a mere ten. His reasoning was that he wanted to be able to put the A-Team on each and every one of his company’s projects. Jobs realized that, in order to get the best results out of your company’s innovations, you need to avoid spreading your resources too thin so that each and every project can get the time and attention it deserves. In business, it is better not to do something at all than to do it halfway.
One thing to keep in mind when you are deciding which projects to hold off on or to abandon is that you need to consider what your company’s innovation goals are. That is, you need to understand if you’re looking for big breakthrough innovation or small incremental innovations. Either one is completely valid, but if you are to know when you need to say no to a new direction, you need to understand your company’s innovation goals. Are you going to put all your eggs into one basket and spend your time coming up with one breakthrough innovation? Some companies have successfully used breakthrough innovations to reinvent themselves and reinvigorate stock prices. The Apple iPhone is one breakthrough innovation that comes to mind. Or, are you going to investigate smaller, incremental innovations?