Innovation

Innovation identifies with

Newness

Innovation

Innovation is thinking new, doing new – that is unthought-of, unimaginable. More the surprise element more the degree of innovation is.

A remark, a joke, a tune, a brushstroke, or a commercial product each can be an innovation. The surprise factor, the newness and the ability to make you gasp would always be the common element.

There is no all-agreed standard definition or measure of innovation. Is it really an innovation – people may always express their doubts over the object being judged.

Because of this high degree of subjectivity in defining and perceiving innovation we simply identify the only constant element in it which everyone will agree with – the newness.

To us – whatever has a unique new element is an innovation. The degree may vary considerably, but still importance of anything new and unique can never be underestimated.

Trapped in time

Nothing is eternal, nor is an innovation. Making fire was a great innovation and quickly our ancestors made it part of their lives. Wheel changed the course of human civilization that in no time wanted to fly. Not a single innovation retained its surprise element for long when it became a part of our lives.

It is but natural, isn’t it? However new something is to you, as soon as you acquire, it starts getting old.

Need for Continuance

That is why we crave for newness or innovation constantly, all the time.

It is in human nature. Newness is life.

Leaving life in general, in competitive market economy, to stay ahead one must surprise the competition with innovative products and policies continuously. On the go you hear the chance remark, “Oh I love XYZ mobile, look at them. Every fortnight a new model comes out!”

In business, ability to innovate continuously is the key to survival.

Maturity of an innovation

Not all innovations reach a stage of maturity that can be appreciated or used by many. One important reason for innovation dying prematurely is - only innovative idea is not enough; its development (of a right product based on the idea), popularization and distribution all are important and necessary elements for fruition and widespread use of the innovative idea.

A common belief is - amongst the two areas of Research & Development, innovation is solely owned by Research. A few of the leading companies of the world have rightly identified that innovation is to be made a necessary ingredient of not only research but every function that contributes to the stages of a product life cycle - from idea generation in research to manufacturing and marketing functions.

Success in all stages of the cycle finally makes the innovation mature.

Daily life needs

Don’t we need innovation in our daily lives? Most of us are not aware of need for new ideas and actions in our daily lives and go through our lives usually in routine and conventional paths. But the importance of out-of-the-box thinking to break out of the routine can never be emphasized enough.

To improve the quality of every decision making don’t you need new thinking? Won’t you like your thought processes to rejuvenate every time you talk with your friend? Nature rejuvenates itself continuously, so would we if we live in newness.

Fresh thoughts and actions improve quality of daily life problem solving and quality of life itself considerably.

Fact is – a problem solver always strives to find a solution in a new way that is of minimal cost and maximal quality.

Chances of routine random approach stumbling on a high quality innovative solution are remote.

Innovation is an inseparable part of systematic problem solving as a discipline.

Key elements of innovation

Exploration

Unless you are continuously exploring for new possibilities how can you reach the innovative solution by chance or design? Exploration is one of the most important elements for innovation. An inherent craving for new pathways works at the core of exploration.

What next? What are the feasible other possibilities? Can we look into this new possibility? What is the cause behind this unexplained behaviour? Such questions and quest for the answers drive you towards an innovative solution.

Exhaustive approach

While you explore a new path, never leave halfway of your exploration. Go to the end, generate all promising choices and after evaluating the choices, if you find the choices no good then only you abandon the path. Problem solving is all about the capabilities of generating new promising choices and evaluating them properly for selecting a choice.

Verification

Many times potentially promising avenues are abandoned because someone said it won’t work and you believed him. Never believe in someone’s negative opinion and ignore a choice. Go near the choice as close as possible, look at it from every angle and then only form your opinion. Before abandoning a possibility try it first, in your own way, satisfy yourself and then take the decision to go ahead along the path or take up a new path.

Curiosity

Exploration is fuelled by strong curiosity. Without exception, all innovators were especially curious persons always asking question, always striving to see what lay behind the hillock in front.

Spotting the unusual

Right from debugging a difficult computer program, finding a fault in a complex system to innovation, ability to spot the unusual nature of a state of affairs or a result is essential for reaching the desired solution.

Every such unusual result needs to be fully evaluated. It may lead you to the innovative solution or may not. Nevertheless you need to examine exhaustively the causes behind the unusual result always.

Reuse

It is said that, you cannot create something utterly new. Somewhere, some other time it existed, may be in different form. This is why the English word Discovery came about. Nothing in the science that we know or don’t yet know is new. All exist. In nature.

No discovery or innovation happens from scratch. Practically all of them are built upon previous works of countless people over the ages or from keen observation of natural phenomenon.

Many qualities of an inventor along with circumstances make inventions happen. One of the most important of them is the capability to reuse an already existing idea or an object to develop something totally new which will be highly useful.

Perspectives

Sky TV – puts you at the centre of activity

The actual catch line used was different from the above, but it does not matter, more important is the idea. It was a famous 30 second TV commercial that won the first prize in Cannes competition for TVCs. The TVC starts with a fast paced football match in progress. As the ball is passed from the centerline towards the opposite goal and a player traps it, you hear a loud grating noise. Though you are watching the screen, for half a second you won’t be able to believe what you are seeing. With the loud grating noise, unbelievably the whole stadium rotates to make the viewing more comfortable to the viewer. The ball is passed again and the stadium rotates again with the loud noise. Now you comprehend. You exclaim, “Wow, what an idea!”

This is use of perspective. The Sky TV tells to its customers, our camera handling is so superior that it is equivalent to the whole stadium revolving around the ground to produce the best view of the point of action in the match.

In general, the principle says:

Think from the point of view of all the stakeholders including customers.

Proper application of this principle works wonderfully to resolve conflicts, achieve great results in counseling and creating customer friendly products in addition to helping to generate the right innovative solution for the right people.

Persistence

The weak hearted tend to raise their hands after a few failures. In contrast, the innovator never gives up and continues searching for the elusive solution even after many failures. Who knows, the treasure may lie just around the next bend in the exploratory path!

Hard work

All great achievements are the results of intense hard work. Innovation is no exception. Common belief is – innovation just happens by chance. Truth is – an innovator reaches the desired solution only after long hard work.

Learning from errors

Learning is one of the most important abilities contributing towards innovation or in any complex problem solving. Biggest learning results from failures only.

Confidence and belief

Without rock solid confidence and belief no significant problem, or for that matter an innovative challenge can be overcome. Strong confidence and deep belief work wonders most of the time to the final result achieved.

Management of resources

In any difficult job, management of resources and results are essential factors to success. In an innovation process it is more so as, the innovator searches for the unknown along unexplored paths.

These are not the only important elements for innovation – there are many more.

Let us now identify the presence of these elements behind the works of some of the well-known innovators.

Innovators

Stephanie Kwolek - Kevlar®

One of the few women scientists at DuPont in the 1960s, Stephanie Kwolek’s habit was to play around and experiment with chemical solutions.

While experimenting with long molecules called polymers in order to develop lightweight heat-resistant fibres, one day Kwolek noticed a polymer solution, normally of appearance like molasses, to be thin and strangely transparent. It poured almost like water, and it was cloudy.

Kwolek spotted the odd nature of the new solution and started her exploration from that point on. She and her colleagues began their attempts to spin the liquid into fibre.

After six years the final product Kevlar, immensely strong but extremely lightweight, could be produced commercially. Today Kevlar is being used in bullet-proof vests, lumberjack’s suits to sporting equipment.

George De Mestral - Velcro® Inventor

Reportedly De Mestral got the idea for Velcro® from cockleburs caught in his clothes during a walk in the woods in 1948. With great difficulty he could pull them off. He was curious to find out how they could attach themselves so tenaciously!

As a next step, De Mestral observed the burrs under a microscope and found that each was covered with a complex system of spiked hooks that latched onto anything that had a loop—clothing fiber, animal fur, or human hair.

De Mestral's realization that he could create a “hook and loop” fabric fastener that acted like the burrs finally led to the development of Velcro®. Today Velcro® is all around from sneakers, jackets and children’s toys to equipment fasteners in NASA spaceships.

Thomas Alva Edison - Electric light bulb inventor

By the sheer number of innovation, Edison holds the leading place in the hall of fame of innovators.

The most significant of Edison’s more than 1000 inventions was the invention of incandescent light bulb for home use. The story goes that—Thomas Edison failed more than 1,000 times when trying to create the light bulb filament. When asked about it, Edison reportedly said, "I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways how NOT to make a light bulb filament."

The greatest of Edison’s innovations was though the innovation of the first Research Laboratory. He employed more than 1000 young and talented researchers to carry out his experiments. This was the most important element behind his phenomenal success, as his main approach was trial and error experimentation.

These innovations are part of legend now. Many of these legendary innovations took many years to finally come out as successful commercial product. Today the situation is different. Innovation in corporate business environment needs to be pursued continuously with minimum lead time between innovations.

Daily life situation is no different. Pressures and complexities of the daily life also multiplied many times necessitating use of all new ideas that we can get hold of. Innovation systems provide one of the most valuable resources for achieving this goal.

In business environment, innovation can no longer be left to hit and try chancy methods. Many aids to innovation are used in business. Our focus is to use whatever of these powerful innovation resources we find suitable, in our quest towards elegant and efficient solutions of real life problems.