What is Innovation?, or better still what does Innovation mean to you?
Because frankly Innovation means different things to different people; to some, Innovation means flying cars, A 90 Hz refresh screen (Smartphone Junkies), The iPhone, or some dystopian scene from some sci-fi movie where humans live side by side with Aliens, Fly around in Space Ships, have Guns that shoot lasers and sorry, this isn’t Star Wars.
Either way, Innovation has different definitions, depending on where you grew up, and the kind of Sci FI movies you watched.
Remember the 1985 movie Back to the Future, where they predicted we’d all have Flying Hoverboards in 2015? This is 2020, and apparently that has not happened. We do have Uber, Bird, and TikTok, but I digress.
What Innovation Really is.
The First true definition of Innovation is from the Business point of view. Let’s put it this way; if you can’t apply it profitably or Sustainably in Business or to support a Business case, it isn’t Innovation, it’s an invention.
Now here’s a short Story;
You wake up tomorrow morning, and somebody has played around and built a Time Machine (I’m Thinking Elon, that guy is practically trying everything he sees in the movies). You get to try it out, you wake up in Berlin in say 1775, July 4th to be Precise, America gained independence last year, and you want to wish your Great, Great, Great (you know where I’m headed with this) Grandpa who doesn’t know you’re from the Future a happy independence.
You make the mistake of Sending the letter on the 4th of July, because you’re still used to WhatsApp, and all that Instant Messaging stuff. You send the letter on the 4th of July, your Grandpa gets it sometime in September or early October.
Your Grandpa probably now thinks you’re Crazy.
Another example; You decide to travel cross-country to get a lay of the land. If you’re Broke, chances are you’re going to walk cross-country. If you’re Middle class, you’ll be riding a horse, and if you’re Billionaire level, you’ll be in a carriage with a couple of escorts. They haven’t invented the Air Conditioner yet, so if the Sun Decides to show off, you’ll be burning up, regardless of all the Gold you have Stored up.
No Netflix, Entertainment is strictly watching your neighbors fight or better still going to the town square to see what is on display.
No Google, if you want to read, you go to the Library. You literally have to search for information and stuff yourself.
No Camera, your Memories are your Photographs. If you’re gifted, or wealthy enough, you paint the picture yourself, or hire an Artist to do it for you.
When you eventually Come back to 2020, you’ll make one meaningful conclusion; In 1775, Life was hard.
This is what Innovation is about. Innovation is simply Making Life Easier.
Innovation is about making life easier. The Assembly line invented by Henry Ford made life easier (at least for those in Production), The Wright Brothers, and the Airplane?, it takes 7 hours to Fly From London to the United States, by ship it would take around 3 days. Today communication is largely instant, i send it now, you get it now. You don’t have to wait for days to get a letter or anything of that sort.
The Truth is, Innovation is about creating the perfect balance between Technology (The Enabler), Design (The Users Advocate), and Business (The Guys who fund it). The End result of this balance is a product that makes life easier for your users, and at the same time improves the bottom line of your Business.
Innovation isn’t patents, What patents really do is display the Technology quadrant of your innovation matrix, if that technology doesn’t make life easier for your users, or translates into profitable business outcomes, your business isn’t innovative, it’s just a business that has lots of patents.
Obsess about Ease.
Too many companies fuss about how they can make their Product better, but what really is better? Does better mean a lot more functionality?, your Product being able to do more, or ease?, your Product making life easier for your users?.
The Easier your Product makes the lives of your users, the better it is. A better Product is an easier Product, not a more Functional one.
Your team needs to become Product Agnostic, and Obsess about ease. How can we make life easier for our users?, what Technological development can aid that purpose?, and can we do this in a way that has a meaningful impact on our Businesses bottom line?.
Answering these questions is the root of true Innovation, Not just a list of the Patents you own. Besides Kodak Filed for Bankruptcy, even though they owned more than 1000 Digital imaging Patents.
So much for Patent Innovation.
Putting AI at the back of your name has nothing to do with being innovative. The real question is How does AI make life easier for your users?.
YouTube’s Algorithm studies my viewing history, and fills my feed with Videos they believe will interest me. They’re usually correct, and their Algorithm saves me from the stress of having to search for everything myself (which would practically ruin the user experience). Sometimes Innovation is about making life easier for people by helping them think less.
Forget the Buzzwords, the question should be simple; how does this Technology, how does this Product make life easier for our users, and how can we keep on making life easier for them?.
Innovation is more than just Sci-fi futuristic stuff, it’s about creating the perfect blend between Technology, Design, and Business. It’s about creating products that are profitable to the Business side, it is more than Just adding Functionality to a Product, it is about making life easier for your users.