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.
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.
Learning a corporate innovation method begins with formal training, and there is no better place to do that than in graduate businesss school. I am looking foward to meeting the 37 students enrolled in my MBA course at the University of Cincinnati this month. The course, "Applied Marketing Innovation," is a full credit "special topics" course. It is a fusion of Systematic Inventive Thinking and The Big Picture marketing framework. The Syllabus can be downloaded, but here are some details about it:
This course focuses on how to create value and growth through innovation in new and existing markets. Students will learn the skills of innovation and how to apply those skills within the context of a marketing strategy framework. Students will apply innovation methods across the entire marketing management continuum including strategy, segmentation, targeting, positioning, and the 4P’s. The course will be taught using interactive workshop methods and techniques throughout. Students will first experience these facilitation techniques while learning innovation. They will then learn and practice these techniques so that they can apply them routinely throughout their graduate experience and beyond.
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.
Abraham Lincoln was a tinkerer. He loved all things mechanical. "He evinced a decided bent toward machinery or mechanical appliances, a trait he doubtless inherited from his father who was himself something of a mechanic and therefore skilled in the use of tools." Henry Whitney, a lawyer friend of Lincoln's, recalled that "While we were traveling in ante-railway days, on the circuit, and would stop at a farm-house for dinner, Lincoln would improve the leisure in hunting up some farming implement, machine or tool, and he would carefully examine it all over, first generally and then critically." Abe was a man of considerable mechanical genius. He had The Knack. His patent, Patent No. 6469, a device for buoying vessels over shoals, makes him the only U.S. president to hold a patent.
What kind of innovator was Lincoln? Was he a PROBLEM-TO-SOLUTION inventor? Did he first observe problems and then create solutions? Or was he a SOLUTION-TO-PROBLEM inventor whereby he first envisioned hypothetical solutions and then connected them to worthy problems? My sense is he was both. He was "ambidextrous," a two-way innovator.
Innovating takes teamwork. Properly selected teams using a facilitated systematic method will outperform ad hoc teams using divergent, less structured methods such as brainstorming. How do you create the "dream team" for an innovation project? There are three key factors: team roles, diversity, and processes.
Innovating is hard work. Perhaps the most difficult aspect is dealing with the anxiety that comes with following a systematic process. The process forces innovators to start with uncomfortable, abstract concepts that seem silly and worthless. These are called preinventive concepts because they occur right before the moment of innovating. Successful innovators learn how to deal with ambiguity and control the anxiety at this critical moment of invention. But there is a catch: some of us are better at it than others. Fortunately, there is a way to determine if you are more or less anxiety-ridden from these effects.