Parents teach their children many things: morals, etiquette, religion, sports, cleanliness, walking, cooking, riding a bicycle, reading, writing, math, discipline, safety, driving a car...the list goes on and on. What if you could give your child the life-long ability to innovate? What a gift indeed. This issue surfaced recently after a string of emails with one of our blog readers who is interested in teaching her child how to innovate (thanks, Trish!). Can children learn a corporate innovation method at such an early age?
A corporate innovation method should be robust enough to produce incremental as well as disruptive ideas. One of my favorite templates in the S.I.T. method is called Division because it does just that. The Division template takes a product or service, divides it or its components, and rearranges them to form a new product or service. It is a particularly useful template to help people see their product or service in completely new ways. It helps people get unstuck from the "fixed" frame that we all have naturally about our products or services. My favorite example of Division happened during an innovation training session. One of the participants was a bit cynical about the method and using patterns to innovate anything. To help him overcome this, I let him select any product or service that he was convinced could not be innovated further. He chose the refrigerator, a concept that has been with us since 1000 BC. What follows is how we used Division in this spontaneous exercise to change his mind.
Once you have a systematic and routine way to innovate, you are confronted with a new problem - how to decide how much innovation is enough. For many, this is odd an question. If innovation is essential for survival and growth, most people would want all the innovation they can get. But that is oversimplifying. Too much innovation can overload the system, confuse the organization, and lead to ideation fatigue. So how much is enough?
As we await the arrival of Amazon's Kindle 2.0, it is a perfect time to begin innovating their next generation device. Anytime is a good time to innovate, but it is especially meaningful to innovate just as you launch your latest innovation. It tells the world you are serious about creating a sustainable pipeline of new growth opportunities.
This month's LAB uses the Task Unification tool of Systematic Inventive Thinking to create new concepts for the Kindle. The definition of Task Unification is: assigning an additional job to an existing resource. The general idea is to break the current product down into components and then sytematically give each component a new task or activity. This creates an abstract "pre-inventive" form that we then take and discover potential benefits, target markets, and adaptations that would make the innovation very useful and unique. This is what I call "Solution-To-Problem" innovation.
This month's LAB uses the Task Unification tool of Systematic Inventive Thinking to create some new concepts for the Kindle. The definition of Task Unification is: assigning an additional job to an existing resource. The general idea is to break the current product down into components and then sytematically give each component some new task or activity. This creates an abstract "pre-inventive" form that we then take and discover potential benefits, target markets, and adaptations that would make the innovation very useful and unique.
Visit the Applied Marketing Innovation Wiki to see a collection of inventions across a wide array of product categories as well as information about innovation consultants. The information is from students at The University of Cincinnati taking the graduate course, Applied Marketing Innovation.
Venture capitalists could increase the value of their investments by applying a corporate innovation method to those investments. Take Twitter for example. It just received its third round of funding - $35 million. Yet it has no revenue, no business model...just the promise of such. It is the perfect time to innovate.
I decided to take the challenge to create new concepts for the Twitter platform that have the potential to earn money. Others are chasing this, too, including the Twitter management team. It reminds me of the early days of Amazon when many (including me) wondered if the company would turn a profit. The difference between Twitter and Amazon is an important one. Amazon started with a business model in mind. From there, it had to achieve economies of scale. Twitter started with none. Economies of scale do not matter until it can define a viable business model.
Let's see how innovation can help.
Finding adjacent market spaces is an attractive way to grow. Adjacent markets are not too far away from your core business in terms of channels, technology, price point, brand, etc. Adjacent means: lying near, neighboring, having a common border, touchable. Although chasing adjacencies can be distracting, it is a much easier to sell internally. Adjacencies seem more achievable than far out, ethereal white space opportunities.
Adjacent markets are even more appealing when you apply a systematic innovation method to it. Giving yourself the gift of novelty in a new market space right next to your own seems like the best of both worlds. The trick is finding the right adjacencies.
Teaching people how to innovate is rewarding. It empowers them. It unlocks their minds to believe that innovation can happen "on command." People realize there is no excuse for not having enough ideas or being innovative once they have been trained.
This month's LAB features the output of one of my students, Michael Sanders, in my class, "Applied Marketing Innovation." For the final exam, students were assigned a product at random. They had three hours to apply all five templates in the Systematic Inventive Thinking method to come up with true new-to-the-world innovations. They were graded on how correctly they applied each template as well as the novelty of their inventions. Michael's assignment: Garage Door Opener. Here is what he did.
It's time to put innovation into practice.
LG Mobile Phones, the fastest growing mobile phone brand in North America, is partnering with crowdSPRING, an online marketplace for creative services, to announce a new competition to define the future of personal mobile communication. U.S. residents age 18 and over can have a chance to design their vision of the next revolutionary LG mobile phone and compete for more than $80,000 in awards. See http://www.crowdspring.com/LG for details on how to submit your ideas.