4. What is Innovation?

4.What is Innovation

The word “innovation” is so widely used and misused it has lost some of its meaning. It is essential that you understand what is meant by innovation. This book defines innovation as:

Profitably satisfy an unmet desire”

The essential words in that definition are satisfy and desire. People have desires. All innovation starts with people. The primary person is the user. What desire does the user have that they want to be satisfied? Understanding users' desires is the crucial first step to innovation.

Inventing does not equal innovating. There are many inventions that don't satisfy an unmet desire. Those inventions might be novel and even do something better than any other way, but if no one desires it done better, the invention will fail as an innovation.

Furthermore, if the product or service never gets to the user it can't satisfy the desire. Unused products don't innovate. Products can fail to get to users because of many reasons including: it's never built, the users never find out about it, or it's too expensive.

Most approaches at innovation focus on creativity and generating ideas. Creative ideas rarely result in innovations. Innovation is not about creative ideas; it's about finding practical solutions that satisfy real people. Innovating is a problem solving activity. Creativity can help in solving problems but you do not need any creativity to innovate. This means innovation is a skill anyone can learn.

For an innovation to make it to users and satisfy their desires it must satisfy the desires of everyone involved in making and delivering it. If the people making and delivering the innovation do not have their desires met, they cannot or will not provide the innovation to users.

People have many desires. When satisfying desires, there are trade-offs. If the trade-off of a solution causes more losses than the value of the desires satisfied, it is not profitable.

To innovate, a solution must cause an overall improvement to all the related desires. That means everyone involved in making, providing, and finally using the innovation must receive more value than it costs or innovating fails.

So when thinking of innovation you must consider the total cost. The total cost is not just the price in dollars but all the desires affected by delivering and using the innovation.

Ideal Product

Users don't care about how their desires are satisfied; they just want their desires satisfied. Users want results. The ideal product does everything you want and nothing you don't. It completely satisfies all the related desires without reducing the satisfaction of any other desire.

The ideal product does:
what they want,
when they want,
where they want,
the way they want,
with whom they want,
for the price they want,
with no hassle.

The ideal is obviously far from what is currently achievable for most products. This ideal gives you a basis to measure existing products and a goal for future products. By describing the ideal product you can step backwards to what is available today and see the path that is needed to reach the future ideal. This is part of the process for predicting innovations.

Chapter 3 Chapter 5


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