Just reading through the MIT sloan review I came across an article about how some of the most important innovations have come about as the result of an accident. The article goes on to say that there are good reasons for this as generally new things can be hard to create due to habits, routines and presumptions. Accidents can break us out ofÂ our previous thinkingÂ and move us to a new place.Â Whether it is a cure for small pox or the discovery of an interesting side effect of a potential heart medicine now known as Viagra, accidents have played an important part in bringing many new innovations to light.
To prepare for the article, the writersÂ talked to innovators in a number of fieldsâ€”from design to manufacturing to fine artâ€”who make a point of seeking out “accidents” and incorporating them into their work.Â They found that there are a number of practical strategies that can help managers leverage accidents into innovation such as:
Hire creative people and mix them up together
Give them unexpected assignments to keep their creative juices flowing. Expose members of your team to different industries orÂ send them on conferences with experts from a different scientific area
Push the envelope. Explore the boundaries of your existing products of processes, what happens if you go over the edge?
makeÂ accidents cheaper. Find ways to increase learning at lower cost using tools such as rapid prototyping
Help them to squirrel away findings which don’t pan out immediately
Watch out for accidents of all sizes and avoid labelling unexpected outcomes as “failures”
Personally, I wouldn’t advocate doing the above without some idea of the most useful directions to explore and there are ways to scopeÂ out and focus onÂ the areas of interest without unnecessarily constraining creativity. The tools of TRIZ in particular are excellent in shaping an ideal outcome (Ideal Final Result) which can really target deliberate accidents. I’ve learnt that, given guidance, a bitÂ of serendipity can be just the thing to boost innovation, even if it happens by accident.ďż˝No comments
I’ve just watched C.K. Prahalad being interviewed on Business Week, talking about his new book “The New Age of Innovation: Driving Cocreated Value Through Global Networks” Prahalad talks about the new needs of innovation being driven by four big changes in the competitive landscape:
1. Global connectivity, where up to 4 billion peopleÂ will beÂ on-line
2. Digital technologies becoming more available through increased convenience and lower cost
3. Convergence of industry boundaries and technologies, e.g. a cell phone is also a computer a watch and a camera
4. Evolution of social networks
In Prahalad’s view this is driving big shifts in innovation away from industrial revolution thinking, where the key considerations of innovation were the form and product as the source of value, to a situation where one consumer has a very personalised experience provided from a concentration of aÂ very broad range of resources. An example of this is the iPod, where a user buildsÂ his or herÂ own very personalised experience while Apple (who don’tÂ manufacture theÂ device or prepare the content) facilitates this by bringing together a wide range of resources from aroung the world. This Prahalad, rather snappily, describes as “N=1, R=G”. He goes on to contrast this new model with the previous view of the world, highlighting three key differences:
1. While the product may be a small part of the experience, the key thing for the consumer is the experience.
2. This experience is co-created by the consumer. For example, Apple can’t tell you whichÂ content to play on your iPod. All they can do is provide a platform for you to chose the content. You become an integral part of the value creation.
3. The experience cannot be created without the collaboration of a wide range of different institutions, creating a whole eco-system of contributors to your personalised experience.
These three points contribute to the shift away from the old innovation approach of form being the unit of analysis and product being the source of value, the old innovation approach being epitomised by the Model T Ford. Prahalad argues that this new model doesn’t just apply to systems like iPod and iTunes but will also apply to other, less glamorousÂ products such as tyres or shoes.
Prahalad sees two fundamental challenges for management:
1. To change the way we look at the world, to see our consumers as an activeÂ parts of the experience creation process. In this new world, there are two joint problem solvers the company and the consumer. What impact might this have on future business strategy?
2. how to change information management systems to match these shifts. He see this area as a major source of competitive value.
So, to summarise, if you’ve gone with this argument so far, our job as innovators becomes one ofÂ building new platforms on which our consumers can create their own experiences. This all seems to align well with the TRIZ evolution of the technological customisation system. The next step after this from a TRIZ viewpoint is that the system itself customises the consumer’s experience with no intervention required from the consumer.Â ďż˝2 comments