Pick up a camera and see how many innovations you can find in it. That shouldn't be hard. There are lots of them. The camera, like all inventions, started with a core idea. From there, it continued to evolve and improve though time. It might surprise you that a single innovation pattern, Multiplication, formed the premise of all photography. The cameras you use today evolved from multiplication. The entire photography industry continues to benefit thanks to this powerful pattern.
Multiplication is one of five simple patterns innovators have used for thousands of years. These patterns are the basis of Systematic Inventive Thinking, a method that channels your thinking and regulates the ideation process. The method works by taking a product, service, or process and applying a pattern to it. This changes the starting point. It morphs the product into something weird, perhaps unrecognizable. With this altered configuration (we call the Virtual Product), you work backwards to link it to a problem that it addresses or new benefit it delivers. The process is called Function Follows Form.
Read this partial list of core competencies for a particular firm and try to guess what industry it is in:
1. Consumer insights: understanding what consumer want
2. Design: making things easy to use
3. Innovation: coming up with new ideas routinely
4. Systems integration: making things work together
5. Customer relationships: forming and maintaining customer loyalty
From this list alone, you could imagine this firm being part of virtually any industry. In fact, the firm with these core competencies would likely be the leader of that industry. Which company owns these skills?
In 2008, managers at Kodak cited these skills as their core competencies. Less than four years later, Kodak is on the verge of bankruptcy, ending the reign of a once proud and legenday 120 year old brand. It is now forced to sell its massive patent estate to raise operating cash.
What happened? Many will cite the familiar reasons: failure to innovate, slow to move into digital photography, poor execution of digital photography, and so on. Yet none of these reasons are correct. Kodak was a highly innovative firm. It invented digital photography long before it wiped out its paper film business. Kodak was a marketing powerhouse. It could execute marketing campaigns and brand building with the best of them.