What’s (not) an Innovation?

 

Nowadays, innovation is very in fashion. As a person, you should be innovative (creative?). A product should be innovative to tempt you to buy it (why?). Research should be dedicated to innovations (instead of discoveries?). Or even worse, boards of directors feel compelled to proclaim a “year of innovation” or ask their employees for vibrant new ideas. . . But for what?

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But what is innovative, what is an innovation?

Fifteen innovation experts gave their definitions of innovation:  Executing an idea which addresses a specific challenge and achieves value for both the company and customer.

In our rather humourous Thinkibility nibble “Innovations that Complicate Things”, we suggested that some innovations seems to make things more complex, inconvenient, more costly or reduce value. Since then, we have seen tonnes of examples of so called innovations that actually reduces the quality of life. (P.S. Insert the last phrase into a search engine and you will get only examples of innovations that create value for people what illustrates the unconscious assumption that innovation is always good).

The definition contains four characteristics:

  1. An idea
  2. A challenge
  3. Value for the company
  4. Value for the customer

What is an idea? 

Apart from philosophical speculations – where ideas are usually seen as mental representational images of some object – ideas are in our opinion a result of breaking standard thinking patterns. A thinking pattern consists of a fixed entry point (definition of a situation) and a set of assumptions (things taken for granted).  Ideas that really break existing thinking patterns are often called disruptive, game-changing, breakthrough, blue ocean, out-of-the-box or even a new idea. Examples of this can be found in  “What Big Data, What Information Dominance?”.

Many creative thinking techniques produce hundreds of ideas, but what’s a good idea? To explore this topic we wrote the posts: “What is a Really Good Idea?” and “Thinking outside the Sea Map”.

It takes time and effort to transform an idea into an innovation. That is why a distinction is made between the stages of idea generation, innovation development – making the idea practical, prototyping it, calculating the business case, setting up production, pre-marketing- and implementation. Each of the stages requires different organisation, cultures, project management tools.

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A challenge

An idea – to be practical- must satisfy a need. That might be:

  • a problem:  a gap between an existing situation and the desired situation
  • an improvement
  • an opportunity

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Seven triggers or sources for innovation are mentioned by Peter Drucker:innovation_sources

The usefulness of this overview of sources and triggers for innovation is not in the summary or description. You can actively check your product or service against a trigger: an occasion or even a necessity to innovate?

To read more about what the main triggers are that push people to innovate in the technical area, look here for an interesting article by Valeri Souchkov.

The biggest problem, however, remains the tendency to ignore challenges because it is unknowingly assumed that they are impossible. In “The Thinking Habits of Steve Jobs” we wrote: Jobs did not settle for less than more than best. He simply ignored practical objections. That drove his designers to extraordinary, hitherto considered impossible performance. Moreover, the ability to ignore generally accepted impossibilities was the main criterion to select employees.

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Challenge implies that there is a call to someone to participate in a competitive situation or fight to decide who is superior in terms of ability or strength, or that a task or situation is waiting that tests someone’s abilities. This is rather passive, but challenges can also be created deliberately: Create Opportunities. 

Value for the company and value for the customer

Some posts that explore the concept of Value are:

In general, values are not coming by itself, they should be designed.

values

Can you design something so that people stay politically engaged? How would you design a fabric that is made out of waste? What if it was possible to design a spot where people feel safe? Or a game that provides people suffering from Alzheimer game with a channel of communication? (To our post about New Brave Design Thinking Approach)

What is at heart of design when you design a hospital or health care systems? (To our post Empathy and Design Thinking)

In summary

In other words, we could say that an innovation consists of a new combination of

  • a function – the innovation has the purpose of satisfying a need
  • a principle – there is a mechanism or idea how to deliver that function
  • a market – the innovation has a value that can be traded.

But still remains the question: “When is an innovation really breaking patterns more than other innovations?. When is an innovation incremental? When radical? When is a technical solution just more-of-the-same routine engineering? What is the difference with a scientific invention? When is it patentable?

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Not-an-innovation

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What Big Data, what information dominance?

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A new adage is blowing around in the world of innovation. According to Wikipedia, The term “big data” often refers simply to the use of predictive analytics, user behavior analytics, or certain other advanced data analytics methods that extract value from data, and seldom to a particular size of data set. Analysis of data sets can find new correlations to “spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on”.
It is reminiscent of an early US Navy doctrine, as a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the essence of teachings in a given branch of knowledge or belief system. As such, it is a thinking pattern, in which is stated that “information superiority permits the conduct of operations without effective opposition”.
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However, in an electronic war game back in 2002 one aircraft carrier, ten cruisers and five out of six amphibious ships were sent to the bottom of the Persian Gulf in the span of just one hour, resulting in the virtual death of over 20.000 US service personnel.

It was the result of an asymmetric strategy by the opponent forces.

Red, commanded by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, adopted an asymmetric strategy, in particular, using old methods to evade Blue’s sophisticated electronic surveillance network. Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to front-line troops and World-War-II-style light signals to launch airplanes without radio communications.
Red received an ultimatum from Blue, essentially a surrender document, demanding a response within 24 hours. Thus warned of Blue’s approach, Red used a fleet of small boats to determine the position of Blue’s fleet by the second day of the exercise. In a preemptive strike, Red launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles that overwhelmed the Blue forces’ electronic sensors and destroyed sixteen warships (Wikipedia)It is the same kind of bold thinking we noticed in our blog Thinking outside the SeaMap:  “doing different things” or “escaping the temptation to do more-of-the-same but only better”.

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Military strategists distinguish between symmetric and asymmetric warfare. Symmetric warfare is characterized by standing armies that follows more or less the same tactics and organized in the same way. Their standard mode of operation can be traced back to Napoleonic Warfare.

Guerrilla warfare is an escape from fighting according to the rules imposed by the often far more powerful opponent. Therefore, this strategy is often applied by less powerful opponents. The most famous form is guerrilla warfare, next to terrorism.

Asymmetric competitor strategies could be an effective approach in business. Basically, it is not playing the game similar to the other companies, that is selling and marketing the same products as competitors but cheaper and better. It is about disruptive innovation, changing the rules in the market, by delivering a complete different product than you competitor does. It is all about gaining competitive advantage by creating an unique niche in the market. Playing another race at a different circuit.

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There is much more to say about the embarrassing destruction of the mighty US Navy, as the over reliance on technological superiority and information dominance. It’s all about big organizations and the neglect of intuition about the intentions and capabilities of the competitor.
asymmetry

Asymmetry

There is much more to say about the embarrassing destruction of the mighty US Navy, as the over reliance on technological superiority and information dominance. Also, the neglect of intuition about the intentions and capabilities of the enemy.

Disclaimer: Now you have heard  about the advantage of disruptive innovation or step-out innovation and decide that your organization should do “some of that.” But most organizations are designed to do something else very well. Namely, what they are already doing. You may have a brilliant vision, you may have identified the next great idea, but organizational routines, standard Key Performance Indicators and existing organizational structures will prevent proper execution: The company will will continue to do what they are already doing succesfully: ” a tiny bit better and a tiny bit cheaper?” See “Why Big Companies Can’t Innovate” by Maxell Wessel.

See also the video: Disruptive Innovation Explained by Clay Christensen.

Thinking outside the Sea Map

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In 17th and 18th centuries England, France, and Spain contested the Dutch domination of world trade and the control over the seas and trade routes. After initial English successes, the war ended in a decisive Dutch victory.

In 1667 Lieutenant-Admiral Michiel de Ruyter sailed up to the river Thames and attacked the British Royal navy in her home base and towed away the Royal Charles, pride and flagship of the English fleet to display it as a tourist attraction in Hellevoetsluis in the Netherlands. It was one of the worst defeats in the Royal Navy’s history, comparable with that of the fall of Singapore in 1942.

Till then, both navies had tried to fight each other at the open seas. Numbers of war ships, range and caliber of the guns and coordinated maneuvering skills were key success factors. However, de Ruyter did something totally different, he sailed up to Chatham and surprised the resting British fleet there.  That way he outperformed the British navy by changing the rules of the game.

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This kind of thinking is the same you should apply when you want to reach dramatic cost reductions, come up with a radical new concept for an existing product or creating a breakthrough innovation. In those cases more-of-the-same thinking will not provide for a game change in the market. Patterns of standard thinking should be broken in order to get competitive advantage.

Edward de Bono, de inventor of lateral thinking, called it Sur/petition: creating value monopolies when everyone else is merely competiting.

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However, it is not simple to come up with disruptive ideas. And also, to convince your board and your crew.

When the secret instructions were opened on June 7 there was a lot of protest. It was noted that most officers do did their best to find objections, but not to come up with solutions.

See also: Creative Execution: What Great Leaders Do to Unleash Bold Thinking and Innovation or watch this video 2′ 23”

Framing = To Lure into Deception

In this Thinkibility Boost we will explore the relation between thinking and framing.

In visual arts and particularly cinematography, framing is the presentation of the visual element in an image, especially the placement of the subject in relation to other objects.

visual-framing

Framing can make an image more aesthetically pleasing and keep the viewer’s focus on the framed object(s).

Something similar happens with mass communication. In essence, framing theory suggests that how something is presented to the audience (called “the frame”) influences the choices people make about how to process that information. The basis of framing theory is that the media focuses attention on certain events and then places them within a field of meaning.  Framing involves social construction of a social phenomenon – by mass media sources, political or social movements, political leaders, or other actors and organizations.

Framing is in many ways tied very closely to Agenda Setting theory. Both focus on how media draws the public’s eye to specific topics – in this way they set the agenda. But Framing takes this a step further in the way in which the news is presented creates a frame for that information.

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Political Framing

This is usually a conscious choice by journalists – in this case, a frame refers to the way media as gatekeepers organize and present the ideas, events, and topics they cover.

Most of the time framing is a technique used by politicians or their advisers to favor a wished representation of the facts, usually when things went wrong.

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Political Spinning

This is called spinning. The main objective is to lure the public into  believing propaganda. A standard approach used in “spinning” is to reframe, reposition, or otherwise modify the perception of an issue or event, to reduce any negative impact it might have on public opinion.

Spinning might be discovered by misleading or false

  • Metaphors: To give an idea or program a new meaning by comparing it to something else. See for an analysis of political metaphor here.
  • Stories (myths and legends): To frame a subject by an anecdote in a vivid and memorable way. For an introductory text, see story telling in politics.
  • Traditions (rites, rituals and ceremonies): To pattern and define an organization at regular time increments to confirm and reproduce organizational values.
  • Slogans, jargon and catchphrases: To frame a subject in a memorable and familiar fashion. Here a list of political sloganscatch phrases, buzzwords and jargon.
  • Artifacts: To illuminate corporate values through physical vestiges (sometimes in a way language cannot). Look here for 25 Amazing Political Artifacts From the New-York Historical Society
  • Contrasts: To describe a subject in terms of what it is not. For an introduction read Contrast in Presentations Creates Contour

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The Charm of Imperfection

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In an earlier post about focus, we stressed the importance of paying attention to the focus of the thinking. Taking a problem or challenge unquestioned as it exposes itself may lead to brilliant solutions for the wrong problem. It is therefore required to pay substantial time and effort to (re)define the focus of the thinking.

The problem of attention is best illustrated by the figure-ground phenomenon:  it is known as identifying a figure from the background. For example, you see words on a printed paper as the “figure” and the white sheet as the “background”. However, it is possible to define the white sheet as the “figure”and the “background” as the printed words. Some examples of figure–ground perception shift are:

Figure–ground perception can be expanded from visual perception to include abstract (i.e. non-visual) concepts such as melody/harmony, subject/background, and positive/negative space. The concept of figure and ground fully depends on the observer and not on the item itself.

In art, is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the “real” subject of an image. It is called Negative Space. The Japanese word “Ma” is sometimes used for this concept, for example, in garden design.

With respect to presented information we called this phenomenon “Left Out” and “Cassandra information“: What is not there?

Left Out

What is not mentioned in the report, intentionally or unconsciously?

We will take the figure-ground reversal a little bit further. Normally, we strive for perfection– broadly, a state of completeness and flawlessness. We value strength, beauty, completeness, velocity, winning etc. Let’s shift focus to the negative face. What is the beauty of imperfection? Amazingly, there is no such page in Wikipedia neither in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Ripping or distressing of jeans, though also arising naturally as a result of wear and tear, is sometimes deliberately performed by suppliers – with distressed clothing sometimes selling for more than a non-distressed pair. For example, Pucci sold “embellished mid-rise boyfriend jeans” for $860 USD. In other times it would be a sign of poverty.

The Golden Raspberry Awards is an award ceremony in recognition of the worst in a film. Most winners do not attend the ceremony to collect their awards.  Notable exceptions include Tom Green (Worst Actor/Worst Director), Halle Berry and Sandra  Bullock (Worst Actress), Michael Ferris, Joe Eszterhas (Worst Screenplay), and Paul Verhoeven (Worst Director)

“The Bad Hemingway Contest” is an annual writing competition that has been held for nearly thirty years, the contest pays mock homage to Ernest Hemingway by encouraging authors to submit a ‘really good page of really bad Hemingway’. Also to mention the “Hemmingway Look-alike Society”, a bunch of “portly gray-bearded old men.”: not being unique is the pursue, but striving for the likeness of someone else is worth pursuing.

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It is all about focus shift

It is all about perception shift. A shift from looking for perfection to valuing imperfection. In Japan, it is called Wabi-sabi the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”

What about the 25 inventions that are completely pointless, as a Car Exhaust Grill or a sadomasochistic tea kettle?

Leaning towers seem to attract a lot more visitors than towers standing upright.

A choir for people who cannot sing and are tone deaf was started by Nadine Cooper, 48, who wanted to join a singing group but never had the courage because she was aware she could not stay in tune. Her self-consciousness started when she was a child after a music teacher ordered her to keep her mouth shut because of her awful singing.A tuneless choir for those who . . .well can’t sing: Listen, this bunch is really hair-raising the roof!

 There are hundreds of quotes about imperfection:
At last, imperfection is even a subject of serious studies, for example, “On Ugliness” by  the legendary   Italian novelist, literary critic, philosopher, semiotician and university professor  Umberto Eco.

I Am a Depressive Character – You’re Absolutely Right

This post is about patterns or logical bubbles in psycho therapy. As we will see there are some parallels with lateral thinking.

lateral thinkingThere are several reasons why a person attends psychotherapy. Someone may attend psychotherapy because she is suffering because she thinks herself into a situation she doesn’t want to be in. She visits  a psychotherapist to get an alternative for her mental state. Or someone visits a therapist because he does something compulsively, and wants to get rid of that compulsory habit. We can represent this situation as someone being caught in a destructive thinking path, as show in the image as a road from A to B. The patient is looking for an escape to an alternative path to help them get into another thinking or behavioral habit. In the picture represented as side way C.

Some readers will recognize this as the way Edward de Bono explains main stream thinking and lateral or creative thinking. With main stream thinking we mean how  humans normally and routinely make sense of, interpret, represent or model the world they experience, and to make predictions about that world (A -> B). The thinking involved with discovering new inventions, coming up with new ideas and concepts and non-obvious alternatives need breaking away from standard thinking patterns (A -> C)

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An assumption in psychotherapy is that the therapist has to diagnose the patient before a treatment plan can be made. In order to do that the therapist will delve into patient’s past, his problems, how he solved them, and how he digests uncomfortable feelings and emotions. Psychotherapists must be  ood active listener: re-stating or paraphrasing what they have heard in their own words, encouraging the patient to express feelings, showing complete understanding and empathy.The therapist is responsible for a solution. That solution is per definition outside the standard thinking or behavioral patterns of the patient, so a big challenge is the acceptation of therapist’s solution by the patient. If he doesn’t do that, the therapist is not professional enough. This phenomenon is called psychological resistance  in which patients either directly or indirectly oppose changing their behavior or refuse to discuss, remember, or think about presumably clinically relevant experiences.

Everyone who ever ventilated a breakthrough idea – an idea outside accepted thinking – will recognize this mechanism. It is rejection and you will have to come up with a better idea, That is why much therapy processes takes years. The patient refuses to alter his thinking, so the therapist is forced to make a better diagnose. Both patient as therapist are caught in a perpetual pattern in which the patient does not want to leave his comfort zone, a behavioral state within he operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.

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Does this remind you of a situation in which you do want to come up with fresh ideas, and you are trying and trying, erring in circles with no results? You are still in main-stream thinking (A->B).

An alternative to classical psycho therapy is Provocative Therapy, invented by Frank Farrelly which advocates radical (and sometimes humorous therapeutic moves intended to jolt the client out of his current mindset.

That is exactly what lateral thinking also is about. To escape from taken for granted thinking to alternative perceptions by deliberately setting up Provocations.

Imagine, someone tells you that she is depressed. Normally you would comfort her, you would do your best to cheer her up, give her a fresh look on the situation or just show empathy. But what if you respond that she is absolutely right and perhaps still far too cheerful? What would happen?

Regarding Jeffrey Wijnberg there are some rules that form the basis of Provocative Psycho Therapy. As you will notice, these are radical different as what therapists usually do:

  1. The therapist gets an equal speaking time as the client;
  2. The therapy starts immediately as the patient enters the clinic;
  3. The therapist uses deliberately no structure during the talks;
  4. The therapist never use hands solutions;
  5. The therapist tries to get in the “laughing state”as soon and well as possible;
  6. The therapist don’t prepare the sessions, but transfers that task to the client;
  7. The therapist uses a (played) pessimistic attitude;
  8. The therapist understands little or nothing of the deeper meanings of what the client tells him;
  9. The therapist is paradoxical in his communication: non-verbal he is signalling warmth, passion, empathy) but verbally he is critical, provocative (doubt, challenging, incomprehension);
  10. The therapist says whatever comes to him.

Please note, it is vital to create a “safe container” when using Provocative Therapy. The work is carried out in an environment designed to be positive, there is a regard for the client and a belief in their capacity for change.

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Change a Point of View – Thinking Strategy

Recently we came across a handsome book by Jodie Newman called Business Creativity. In the chapter about  Creative Toolkit, we found five tools that we clustered around the theme Change Point of View, because basically they come all down to the same principle.

As we earlier pointed out each of us looks at the world from our Point of View, based on our experiences and agreements made by relevant others regarding how to attach meaning to the world. Everyone creates a kind of bulb around him or herself, wherein the world manifests itself as completely logic. How these logic bulbs are created – individually and collectively –  is described in our blog post Language is not Innocent – How Thinking Patterns are Created.

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A way to escape from your own logic bubble is to  do something what is like an out-of-your-body experience. Something that detaches yourself from your body, like visiting a distant location. This could lead to a change in perception on a challenge or problem you have, which is – per definition – creative thinking.

There are several ways to do this, as illustrated in the mind map below.

Change POV

  1. Prepare a list of 8-11 brands,customers, jobs, celebrities or stakeholders. Use logos, photos and images.
  2. Imagine (or ask directly) how this brand, customer, jobholder, celebrity or stakeholder would solve the challenge in question.
  3. Capture ideas that come to your mind until you have nothing more to add. Then pick up another brand, customer, jobholder,celebrity or stakeholder.

Other Thinking Strategies that we have paid attention to in this blog are:

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