How do you innovate a business model? You can create new products and services within the current business model to drive growth. Or you can create a new business model and open up a whole new world of possibilities for the firm. Either innovate within the current game, or change the game. But how?
The suggestion from one of our readers (thanks, Erez!) is to use Task Unification on a guitar. His comment suggests that players have trouble keeping their guitars in tune when playing in a band. They need to reduce the time it takes to re-tune between songs. I liked this assignment because I play guitar, and I have a small collection of electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, and a banjo. This will be the first time I have applied a systematic innovation process to invent new guitar concepts. Let's see what happens.
The Multiplication tool is one of the five powerful thinking tools taught to me by the folks at Systematic Inventive Thinking. I like this tool because it is simple and yields great results. Even children can learn it.
Multiplication works by taking a component of the product, service, strategy, etc, and then making one or several copies of it. But the copy must be changed in some way from the original component. The original component is still intact, unchanged. Now using Function Follows Form, we work backwards to take this hypothetical solution and find a problem that it solves.
Companies are enamored with chasing "white space opportunities." White space is the nickname for new, undiscovered growth segments. It spins the notion that opportunity lies just ahead of us. Telling colleagues you are working on white space opportunities suggests you are doing really important stuff. It is the ultimate growth endeavor, the risk worth taking. White space will save the day. I'm not so sure. I have two problems with white space. It is neither white, nor a space.
Here are ten innovations for the iPhone that I would love to see. I created these using the Attribute Dependency tool. It is the most powerful of the five tools of Systematic Inventive Thinking, but also the most difficult to learn.
To use Attribute Dependency, we start by making two lists. The first is a list of internal attributes of the iPhone. The second is a list of external attributes - those factors that are not under the control of the manufacturer (Apple, in this case), but that vary in the context of how the product or service is used. Then we create a matrix with the internal and external attributes on one axis, and the internal attributes only on the other axis. This matrix forces the combinations of internal-to-internal and internal-to-external attributes that we will use to innovate.
George Orwell died January 21, 1950 at the age of 46. He is considered one of the great all-time fiction writers with works like Animal House and Nineteen Eighty Four. What if he were alive today? What would he say, and what would he write about? What if he blogged? What would the conversation be within the blogosphere? Much to my surprise, George Orwell is blogging...sort of. The Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent prize for political writing, is publishing George Orwell’s diaries as a blog. Orwell’s domestic and political diaries from August 1938 until October 1942 are being posted in real-time, exactly 70 years after the entries were written. The diaries are exactly as Orwell wrote them.
Katie Konrath at getFreshMinds.com tackles a common mistake in innovation - packing new features into existing products as a way to innovate - a problem I call "feature creep." Her main point: people pack products to the brim with features to be more innovative. Many believe this is the only way to innovate. Katie believes feature packing is a lazy way to innovate.
Why does this happen? The major culprit is too much reliance and emphasis on the traditional PROBLEM-TO-SOLUTION approach to innovation. We spot a problem in an existing product, service, or situation, and then we "solution seek" a way to fix it. We usually end up adding additional features to the existing product, service, or situation.
Do systematic methods of innovation work on services and processes? This may be the most common question from corporate executives who want to learn innovation methods. This month's LAB will focus on a familiar corporate process: employee recruiting. The tool we'll use is Subtraction.
To use Subtraction, we make a list of the components. With a process or service, the components are simply the steps to deliver the process or service. We remove a step one at a time to create the Virtual Product/Process. Working backwards with Function Follows Form, we innovate what the potential value or benefits would be without the component. What would the new process do? Who would use it? Why would they use it?
The Front End of Innovation blog reports 70% of respondents to their recent survey believe eliminating business method patents will hurt innovation and its practices. The premise is that innovators and entrepreneurs are less likely to innovate if they know they cannot get patent protection. The result surprises me, and it make me wonder what the other 30% were thinking.
The issue stems from whether an inventor can patent an abstract process, something that involves nothing more than thoughts. The courts are saying no. A recent ruling on a business method patent by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said that it was not tied to a machine or apparatus, nor did it transform a particular article into a different state or thing. It did meet the standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court for patentability. Many industries that are not "machine-based" like software makers, Internet companies, and investment houses, are concerned.
Can you innovate a mature product? Consider the fishing pole which dates back to the ancient Egyptians - it certainly qualifies as a mature product. This month's LAB will innovate it by using the systematic innovation methodl called Multiplication.
Fishing is the largest sporting activity in the U.S. with 40 million participants, far more than golf or tennis combined, the next two on the list. Recreational fishing generates more than $125 billion in economic output and more than one million American jobs. If sportfishing were a corporation, it would rank above Bank of America or IBM on the Fortune 100 list of largest American companies. The pathway to growth for any large, mature industry is: innovation!