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.
Credit card companies must innovate to overcome the financial and public relations consequences of recent government legislation. The Credit Card Reform Act of 2009 is a "bill to protect consumers, and especially young consumers, from skyrocketing credit card debt, unfair credit card practices, and deceptive credit offers." These changes go into effect in 2010, and they will undoubtedly reduce the financial performance of card issuers.
Here is an opportunity to learn innovation from the same people who taught me. The course is called Innovation Suite 2009, and will be held July 27-29, 2009 in Rochester, Minnesota. For registration and more detailed information, please go to www.sitsite.com/2009innovationsuite. Here are some excerpts about the course from the registration site:
Innovation Suite 2009 will help you successfully apply innovation to three critical levels in your company: individual, team, and organization-wide. Each day of this 3-day course focuses primarily on one level. We will take you step by step from the basic tools and principles of the SIT method through hands-on team innovation and company-wide sustainable processes.
Placing advertisements on objects such as billboards and taxis is nothing new. But here is a new twist using task unification. It is one of five templates in the corporate innovation method called S.I.T. Task Unification assigns an additional "job" to an existing resource. Here is an example as reported in USA Today:
“We put the ‘no’ in innovation!” The good people at Post Cereal have a new twist on innovation…NOT innovating as a statement of the products ubiquity and staying power. “Some things just weren’t meant to be innovated." How could I resist? It was just too tempting to use systematic innovation on this simple product, especially in light of the perception that it should not be innovated. Though the ad campaign is a spoof, I wonder just how much the people at Post really believe this. What if shredded wheat could be innovated to create new growth potential for this sixty year old product?
Here is an example of the Multiplication Template, one of five in the corporate innovation method called S.I.T.. It is from the Taylor Guitars, one of the leading companies in the category and one of the most innovative. The Multiplication Template makes copies of components but changes the copies in some way from the original. Taylor has multiplied the pickguard of their electric guitar series, but changed the configuration with different styles of magnetic pickups (the part that translates the sound from the strings). It is a clever idea because guitar owners can re-configure their guitar for different playing situations. It helps Taylor Guitar extend their product reach into the aftermarket for guitar parts and maintain a more loyal following of customers.
People collaborate to innovate. But what about the other way around? Could a structured innovation approach be used to bring people closer together? In other words, collaboration becomes the endpoint and innovation becomes the means to that end?
Collaboration is where two or more people or organizations work together in an intersection of common goals. Collaboration is seen as an essential element of change and group effectiveness. People collaborate for a variety of reasons, including:
Health Care Reform, as the U.S. government sees it, promises lower costs, better access, and improved quality for all. Let's apply a structured innovation method to health care to see if we can achieve some of these goals. For this month's LAB, we will apply Systematic Inventive Thinking to the hospital discharge process.
Embracing social media and the myriad of Web 2.0 tools is more challenging than just setting up a Facebook account or adding a “Follow Me on Twitter” link. A lot of organizations struggle with how to take advantage of the power of Web 2.0. Where do you start? How do you tie these new tools in with your current website? How do you make sure you keep your current constituents happy while moving the organization to a more networked world?
For this month’s LAB, we will use the innovation template called Task Unification, one of five templates of the corporate innovation method called S.I.T.. To use Task Unification, we take a component of a product, service, system, etc, and we assign an additional job to it. For this exercise involving Social Media, here is how it works. Imagine your company has a large base of employees in the field. For example, suppose your company has a large sales force or an extensive network of delivery or service people. Consider the U.S. Postal Service, for example, with an army of postal workers and letter carriers at over 32,000 post offices. A key question for these organizations like the USPS is: how to get more value out of this fixed asset? Let's use Task Unification.
I start by visiting a site that inventories all the social web tools: GO2WEB20.NET. I randomly pick an application from this list. Then I assign the internal field resources to "use" this application to increase revenue/profits for the company. Using our example of the postal service, I create this statement: "Postal delivery staff have the additional 'job' of using XXXX (web application) to increase USPS performance."
The key is to use the non-obvious applications for creating new, innovative services. Here are examples I created using Task Unification:
Innovation puts cash in your wallet. But what about the wallet itself? For this month's LAB, we will apply the corporate innovation method, S.I.T., to create new and useful concepts for the wallet.
Wallets are the most personal items we own. They carry our money, credit cards, identification, licenses, photographs, and other memorabilia. Your wallet says a lot about you. As with food, we try to stuff more inside while staying thin. Wallets have been around a long time. Today, the wallet industry is a multi-billion dollar market fueled by new designs and innovation. Here are six unique wallet concepts invented using the five templates in the S.I.T. method. They were created by graduate students at the University of Cincinnati as part of their course requirements in "Applied Marketing Innovation."