It's official. Pinterest has joined the elite group of social apps along with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, and Google Plus. "Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard that lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web." How popular is it? It is the fastest site ever to break through the 10 million unique visitor mark. A report by Shareaholic claims, “Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined.” As of March 2012, Pinterest was valued at $1.5 billion.
There are many creative ways to use Pinterest. New apps are emerging around it much like what happened with Twitter. But to maintain growth, Pinterest needs innovation. For this month's LAB, we will apply Attribute Dependency, one of five techniques of Systematic Inventive Thinking, to Pinterest. Our goal will be to create new innovations around Pinterest as we did with Twitter and Facebook.
Marketers have such a wide array of social media apps to choose from that it can be overwhelming. Tools such as Go2Web20.net can help sort through the maze and narrow down the search to catergories of apps such as mobile, Facebook, gaming, and so on. But to squeeze more out of social apps, the savvy marketer looks for ways to innovate in a way that supports the brand. For this month's LAB, let's apply the innovation method, SIT, to social media apps as a means of brand building.
This is not the first time we've applied innovation techniques to social media. In the October 2009 LAB, we demontrated how to apply social apps to a large field organization such as a sales force or delivery fleet. The key was using the Task Unification Technique, one of five in the SIT method. To use Task Unification, we take a component of a product, service, system, etc, and we assign an additional "job" to it. For this month's LAB, we will apply the same basic approach to brand building. Imagine you are the brand manager for the billion dollar Febreze® franchise, and you are looking for ways to stretch the brand into eliminating pet odor. Here is how it works.
When Joseph Gayetty invented commercially available toilet paper in 1857, he called it "The greatest necessity of the age!" Of course, he wasn't exaggerating. The use of paper for toileting dates back to the 6th century AD. Gayetty's Medicated Paper was sold in packages of flat sheets, watermarked with the inventor's name. Since then, many companies have tried to innovate this product. Many innovations are simple gag gifts while others are quite useful.
For this month's LAB, let's apply the corporate innovation method, S.I.T., to create new concepts for toilet paper. S.I.T. is a collection of thinking tools, principles, facilitation methods, and organizational structures to help companies innovate products, processes, and services. We will use the Attribute Dependency Technique, one of five in S.I.T..
According the Center for the Future of Museums, many non-profit museums in this country are struggling from a broken economic model. Attendance and memberships are declining as consumers are given more choices of how to spend their time. To attract more, museums need to have good storytelling, stagecraft, showmanship, great imagery, and great sound. They need to tap deep passions and emotions to create "product" that is meaningful to audiences. Otherwise, many museums will shut down.
For this month's LAB, let's apply the innovation method, S.I.T, to a museum. Students from my Innovation Tools course at the University of Cincinnati created new concepts for a local museum, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The students portrayed the concepts in a Dream Catalog as a way to visually tell the story. You can download the entire catalog here.
Cardboard boxes are one of the most widely used forms of packaging in the world. 90% of all products are shipped or displayed in corrugated packaging at some point in their lifecycle. It's a $57 billion dollar industry globally, but it is not growing. Could it be a lack of innovation?
For this month's LAB, we will apply the corporate innovation method, SIT, to the corrugated box to see what potential innovations could fuel industry growth.
How do you attract new customers while retaining current ones? For many categories, you attract new customers by showing high satisfaction with current customers. Put the current customer first and you will increase your appeal to new customers.
The challenge is when you have to change your product to meet the different demands of new customers at the risk of alienating existing customers. For example, imagine you owned a prestigious, members-only dinner club with a strong following of older, traditional patrons. They are fiercely loyal and attached to the various details such as the glassware and the color of the table cloths. Any changes are seen with suspicion. You want to bring in new members, but need to change the club to appeal to younger potential members. Too much change will drive away current members.
For this month's LAB, we will apply Systematic Inventive Thinking to address this apparent conundrum.
Hewlett Packard's announcement that it's combining its PC and printer divisions is meeting skepticism. Larry Dignan, editor-in-chief of ZDNet, had this to say:
"Hewlett-Packard says it's combining its printer and PC divisions partially because the move will drive "innovation across personal computing and printing." Oh really? Color me decidedly skeptical on that claim, which was touted in the company's announcement today. My mental block: What exactly are the touch points between a printer and a PC, and where does the innovation lie? HP does have printing innovation. Its inkjet technology can be used for drug delivery, for instance. However, unless your PC is delivering doses of pharmaceuticals to you, it's a stretch to see the connection."
For this month's LAB, lets put the S.I.T. method to the challenge. Imagine being part of this newly-combined HP organization. Here is how you might apply each of the five techniques of systematic inventive thinking. The key is to leverage each technique in a way that forces non-obvious connections between the two units, laptop and printer. These configurations become a "virtual product." We use Function-Follows-Form to work backwards to the problem they solve or benefit they deliver.
Twitter continues to evolve with some 220 million users tweeting collectively 250 million times a day. It is a vast social network that has become the world's "listening post" for events happening everywhere. Major news organizations rely on Twitter to give early warning to breaking stories.
For this month's LAB, we will apply all five techniques of Systematic Inventive Thinking to Twitter. Our goal will be to create new features and innovations with the main Twitter platform as well as to create completely new applications related to Twitter. Many "apps" tied to Twitter already exist, and you can find a thorough inventory here.
GPS technology is great at getting you from Point A to Point B. What if you had a system that alerted you to risk of crime, weather, points of interest, and cost savings tips along the way? Microsoft seems headed this way given a newly-awarded patent that ties GPS location to useful information for pedestrians. Here is a description:
"As a pedestrian travels, various difficulties can be encountered, such as traveling through an unsafe neighborhood or being in an open area that is subject to harsh temperatures. A route can be developed for a person taking into account factors that specifically affect a pedestrian. Moreover, the route can alter as a situation of a user changes; for instance, if a user wants to add a stop along a route."
This is a classic example of the Attribute Dependency Technique, one of five in Systematic Inventive Thinking. It creates a correlation (dependency) between a person's location and the type of information that is sent to the device. Microsoft's new concept gathers data, analyzes the data and user requirements, then generates suggested routes. It considers the user's preferences such as avoiding neighborhoods that exceed a certain threshold of violent crime statistics. The system might direct you to "take the subway" rather than walk if rain was expected. It even considers cost factors such as parking, extra traffic, and other situations that might make you vary your path.
This month's LAB features a former student of mine, Ryan Rosensweig. Ryan is the first business-design hybrid from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. He earned his master’s degree in design after completing his bachelor’s degree in marketing, sustainable urban engineering, and interdisciplinary design innovation. As the graduate assistant for Associate Dean Craig M. Vogel, of DAAP’s Center for Design Research and Innovation, Ryan researched educational models for interdisciplinary innovation, the interaction between design methodologies and business strategy, as well as product and service innovations for the over-age-50 population. Take a look at his portfolio here.
I had the pleasure of teaching Ryan how to use Systematic Inventive Thinking when he attended my Innovation Tools graduate course. The final exam required students to correctly apply all five techniques of S.I.T. to an item assigned to them randomly.
Here are selected examples from Ryan's final exam - innovating a couch!