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 method 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 sport fishing 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!
We start by listing the components of the product. We then make a copy (or copies) of each component, one at a time. The new copies must be different in some way from the original component. We then use Function Follows Form and work backwards to envision what the “pre-inventive form” could be used for. We innovate by taking something that doesn’t make sense at first, then find a legitimate purpose for it. Here is what I came up with (about an hour’s worth of work):
This was challenging because a lot of innovation has already occurred in the fishing pole using Multiplication (a testament to its power of the tool as a source of innovation). For example, multiple rods – the telescoping fishing rod is a great idea for travelers (I have one!). Multiple hooks have been around for a long time as a way to increase yield and hooking strength. Multiple fishing line guides (those small ringlets that guide the fishing line) come in multiple sizes.
Here are some innovations I came up with:
1. Multiple Spools: Instead of one spool to hold the fishing line, there are now several spools, but each one is a different diameter, side-by-side in the same reel. Fishing line can be wrapped around a different spool by “changing gears” similar to how you would change gears on a bicycle. This gives the fisherman different speeds and more control for pulling in a fish, and it saves time.
2. Two Bobbers: The first bobber is a telltale for when a fish bites at the bait (it floats in the water and bobs up and down). The second bobber is also a telltale, but it tells you when the bait has been cleaned off the hook by a fish. This is very useful for fisherman. It does this, perhaps, by sensing the weight of the hook or the presence of matter on the hook. I would buy this!
3. Two Drag Mechanisms: The first drag mechanism sets the resistance the fish experiences pulling on the line. The second drag is different: it sets the resistance that the fisherman experiences reeling in the line. Benefit: it slows down the fisherman from getting too excited and cranking too fast – often resulting in breaking the line. Another benefit is that it extends the experience of pulling the fish in. I am guilty of cranking the fish in too fast, for example. This would slow me down.
4. Second Crank Handle: The second handle would be on the other side of the reel, useful for left handed people. Another benefit is it would allow for the fisherman to change hands due to fatigue.
5. Second Fishing Line: Imagine a second fishing line is tied to the hook, but perhaps with a bit of slack in it. If the fish breaks the first line (a frequent occurrence which usually happens at the knot), the second fishing line takes over as a backup. Benefit: you catch more fish. The second fishing line would not have to be a full line all the way back to the reel. Instead, it could be a short piece of line, perhaps two feet or so, tied back to the original line.
In closing, the real value of corporate innovation methods is not just in the creation of new, transformational products, but also in revitalizing current, mature products. After all, it is these innovations that generate cash to fund your growth initiatives.