The word innovation can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. So let’s define it as “a differentiation in the delivery of a product or service experience worthy of an economic reward.” In this context it’s only innovative if it makes money.
- Get down to basics. Reduce a function down to its most basic elements. For example, instead of assuming you need to launch a traditional online store — ask what is the most efficient way to deliver the experience your customer demands. Instead of being built, stocked and shipped, maybe your component could be fabricated at one of the growing network of 3D printing shops. Or, instead of researching which tires your new model year lineup will need, picture what is actually going on, which is the forward motion of your land vehicle. What if the trail itself was designed to help propel the ATV? Could that result in something more optimized than a basic “tire?” The answer might be found by studying how dirt, air, or even a magnetic field can be shaped, and developing a carrying system that creates that result.
- Include everyone. A Ph.D. does not confer an innovation birthright. Many are the designs that were first conceived in the wee hours by farmers, race team mechanics or other sundry free-thinkers and problem solvers. General Chuck Yeager, the pilot who broke the sound barrier among other accomplishments, started out as an air force mechanic. In those days, you flew what you fixed and this helped him master many small details about flying machines that later gave him confidence to literally push the envelope with jet-powered aircraft. In his memoirs, he speaks often of the insight of a certain key engineer on these historic programs. At the end of the day, some combination of solid theory (whether by luck or design) validated by experimentation drives innovation.
- Look to nature. Pheromones, ladies and gentlemen. Everything you are trying to accomplish with attracting buyers is done in the animal kingdom via complex airborne chemistry involving pheromones. Talk about getting inside the minds of your customers! In some ways, branding is nothing but an attempt to duplicate this process to make a product irresistible to consumers. Another one of my favorite natural analogies is electrical systems. The electrical system of a powersports vehicle is a lot like an extension of the central nervous system of the rider. Just like the human heart is “wired” to still work even if the mind is unconscious, engine systems can be isolated to operate well even if there are electrical faults in other areas of the vehicle. A great electrical system helps a vehicle run like a top athlete, a flawed electrical system can break down a motorcycle in unfortunate ways just like the human body. Nature is filled with innovation in product, delivery channel and speed. How can you shadow its processes to achieve your service and product execution?
This is the first in a two-part series, to read Innovation3 Part 2, click here.
Gary Gustafson is president of G-Force Consulting Inc, a powersports consulting firm providing product research and launch solutions for manufacturers, on the web at www.gforceconsulting.com.