Triggers and Barriers

Many years ago I set out to solve what I thought was the biggest business problem I could find, that of Strategy Execution. I had a problem at Synamics making sure our strategies were properly executed and the Harvard Business Review concluded that it was the biggest problem in business. So with Mike Tobias we launched Mercanix to solve problems with corporate strategy execution and it bombed. I mean really bombed. We had trouble getting anyone to even talk with us, even though CEOs agreed that it was the biggest problem they had.

What we discovered is that you have to do more than solve a problem. You have to find someone who has a problem, is tasked to solve it and has a budget. The thing is, no one specifically is responsible for solving problems in strategy execution, everyone is. And no one has a budget. The company is doing well now. But I spent considerable time afterwards reflecting on why it bombed and why so many other products and companies bomb. The result is this book and the Narwhal Project. You can buy the book on Amazon or Amazon Canada


Triggers and Barriers to Innovation

If you think you have a great business or product idea your success will depend in part on how well you understand your prospective customer. In fact, If you listen closely, your customers will tell you what business you are in.

This book is all about understanding those potential customers. It’s about figuring out what triggers them to buy and what barriers get in the way of you making a sale. The book is about how to listen to customers so that you can understand their behavior and capitalize on it to make your business a resounding success.

The thing about customers is that they don’t talk very loudly. In fact, sometimes they won’t talk to you at all. They won’t tell you what they want or what you should create. Customers won’t tell you what triggers them to make a purchase. They also won’t tell you why they won’t buy, or what barriers get in the way of them making a purchase. Customers might not even know that what you have is something they need.

What you need is a framework to help you listen to customers. A framework helps you understand what triggers them, what barriers stop them, and how they view your competition. That’s what I’m going to give you in this book: a framework to help you understand your prospective customers’ triggers and barriers. How they think, what they feel, and how your idea relates to their lives.


Some triggers are caused by regulation, some by a required strategic thrust or response, some by operational requirements and some because of financial needs.

Understanding what triggers someone to want to innovate can help you understand whether or not you have a market for a product or service and how to sell to best capture that market.


Barriers to innovation include such things as the costs to innovate, the risks involved, and a whole host of psychological issues that get in the way of people innovating. People will resist a call to innovate, even if there are strong triggers.

Before you build a product or attempt to introduce a service, you need to figure out what the barriers are and how you are going to get around them.


Even if there are strong triggers that are acting on people to get them to innovate and low barriers from hindering them, you must be substantially better than your competitors to get buyers to choose you.

Sure you can build a company where everyone is doing the same thing. To be competitive then you’ll need to be better at execution or better at selling. Those types of businesses though don’t have the potential as ones that are doing something radically different.

The Innovation Sweet Spot

Along the way towards what I now talk about regarding Triggers and Barriers, Reducing Ambiguity, and Boiling the Ocean, I gave this talk about what I called the Innovation Sweet Spot. It takes a consumer perspective on innovation and helps technology innovators appreciate a different perspective.