As day two of the HSM World Innovation Forum in NYC progressed, I began thinking about how valuable the framework within which I think about innovation has become in filtering elements related to this vast concept. The framework enables me to sort innovation initiatives into four general areas and help organizations understand what type of innovation they need to focus on now.
The four areas are:
- Out of the Blue
- Solution with No Problem
- Problem in Need of a Solution
We heard many great stories from some of the most innovative thinkers of our time at WIF 2011. I’ll use highlights from a few to demonstrate how I apply the framework to innovation initiatives.
- Out of the Blue – Have you ever thought about a product that you’re fairly certain isn’t on the market today and you think it needs to be? You know like Henry Ford and the first automobile or Jeff Hawkins as he invented the first Palm Pilot.
Paola Antonelli during an engaging and entertaining presentation shared an innovative way to keep your loved one close to you after they’re gone. She suggested transforming lab cultivated bone tissue into a ring of love that you can wear forever. Now that’s out of the blue innovation in my book!
- Optimizing – Is there a product that you use today that with a few tweaks could deliver a higher level of customer happiness? Although this may sound easy to accomplish we sometimes become so accustomed to a less than optimal product design, it’s tough to imagine it any other way.
Paddy Miller provided a great example of optimization through the story of the evolving design of the suitcase. Often so heavy we earn aches, pulled muscles or even rotator cuff tears from the suitcases we carry, yet it took centuries for us to think about a redesign. We eventually figured out we could shift much of the weight of the suitcase from human strength to the earth and we added wheels. Ah, finally we optimized the design of the suitcase. So very simple, and it only took about 150 years! Okay it did reshape the suitcase industry.
- Solution with No Problem – Ever have a ‘what if’ idea and wonder who might want to use it, whether there’s a market for it and if it would even sell?
Clay Christensen delivered an inspiring keynote during which he explained how scientists at Dupont would go into their labs and emerge with a new formula for a fabric. He challenged us to pause when we got back to our rooms at the end of the day and pivot in a 360 degree circle to look at the variety of fabrics in our room – curtains, bedspreads, towels, rugs and more.
It’s likely many of those fabrics Christensen explained, were originated in the labs at Dupont. And after the Dupont scientists invented them, it’s likely the ensuing conversation went something like this: ‘We just invented this fabric. How do you think we can use it?’ Of course not only did Dupont find a use for these innovative fabrics, Dupont’s business has thrived for decades as a result of this approach to innovation.
- Problem in Need of a Solution – This type of innovation occurs when a problem becomes apparent and the need to find a solution is needed. I’m going to put the Zappos story in this category because they realized the need to solve a brand differentiation concern.
Tony Hsieh shared some highlights of the Delivering Happiness story explaining steps they have taken to differentiate Zappos from other online shopping experiences. Through transformation of the Zappos culture and vigilance to delivering happiness one customer at a time, the online dominance of Zappos in the retail shoes and clothes is now virtually unparalleled.
So there you have it, the innovation quadrant that helps to filter and navigate next steps of innovation initiatives. This approach enables me to continue to refine needs and next steps in order to navigate the innovation process and helps companies organize and prioritize their innovation strategies.
I’ll be doing more blogging on topics discussed during two of my favorite days of the year spent at the World Innovation Forum. Feel free to Tweet me your questions and comments via Twitter @JillBrainLogic