The New York Times published a list of "32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow," an eclectic mix of concepts that range from the wild and wacky like SpeechJammer (#14) to more practical ideas like a blood test for depression (#25).
I analyzed each of the 32 concepts to see which ones could be explained by the five patterns of Systematic Inventive Thinking. These patterns are the "DNA" of products that can be extracted and applied to any product or service to create new-to-the-world innovations. Dr. Jacob Goldenberg found in his research that the majority of successful innovations conform to one or more of these patterns. Conversely, the majority of unsuccessful innovations (those that failed in the marketplace) do not conform to a pattern.
Proto Labs, the world’s fastest manufacturer of CNC machined and injection-molded parts, has announced the launch of its Cool Idea! award, a new program designed to give product designers the opportunity to bring innovative products to life. Proto Labs will provide $100,000 worth of prototyping and short-run production services to award recipients.
My crystal ball is no better than others. Rather than predict innovations, I predict what characteristics they will have and how they might be invented.
1. Mobility: Future products will incorporate some degree of mobility and integration into the mobile lifestyle. Smart phones fuel this. But mobility is not all about communications. Future products will take advantage of the data created by people as they move through their day. The innovation templates, Task Unification and Attribute Dependency, are excellent tools for identifying these opportunities.
People can improve their innovation skills by mentally simulating the use of innovation tools. Chip and Dan Heath in their book, Made to Stick, talk of the importance of mental simulation with problem solving as well as skill-building.
Sustainable innovation requires structured methods. But it also requires collaboration and information sharing among colleagues. Innovation is a team sport - groups produce better results than the lone genius. So how do you create a more favorable context for collaboration and sharing in your business unit?
Reputation is what matters. The degree to which a technical worker will share information with a colleague depends on that colleague's reputation for returning the favor. The rule of reciprocity states that people give back to those in the form they have received from others. It is a social rule taught by every human society to its members - you give back to those who have given to you. But the key is: to make the first move. You have to be seen as someone who gives and shares information with others, and has a reputation for returning the favor when others give to you.