What Qualifies as True Innovation?

What qualifies as true innovation?

The word ‘innovation’ does get passed around a lot nowadays. From large businesses to startups and perhaps even consultants like myself.

If you take a moment to think about it, innovation is not as commonplace as we might assume it is.

If you had an almost infinite budget, and you created a cutting-edge product, that is innovation, but probably not a great one, at least in my book, unless it is easily affordable by a good section of its total user base.

What does that mean?

In my book, I take a few examples. One of a hand-built, limited-edition supercar. Perhaps only a hundred, or even just 7-8 of them ever built. Each one will come with an astronomical figure on the price-tag. High input costs, the best of components and skilled manpower, and a high sale price.

The W Motors Lykan Hypersport, only 7 made at € 3.1 milion each Source: link

That is not a great example of a true innovation, because only a few people would benefit from it, and it is easy to add technology with a huge budget.

Contrarily, what if a similar amount was invested on an early-warning system for storms or earthquakes that could benefit millions? Now that would be a true innovation!

Another example I mention in my book, is of the USD 120,000 Ottobock Genium X3 knee. It is a state-of-the-art prosthetic foot, also referred to as ‘the Maserati of microprocessor prosthetics.’ Again, at that price, only a few differently abled would be able to afford it to improve their lives.

Then there is the BMVSS fitted Jaipur prosthetic foot, that retails at USD 30-45. It has benefitted over 1.55 million people worldwide since the late 1960s when it was invented.

True innovation does not happen on huge budgets and unlimited manpower and resources. True innovation happens with constraints. Not just monetary constraints, but others too. But that is also when you sometimes get products or services that the world never forgets. Products or services that truly change lives

If you own, manage or work at a company, and innovation, strategy, problem-solving, and customer experience management are areas of interest, there are ways in which I can help your business grow. More on it here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon &Flipkart.

Anti-Crime Balls

Anti-crime colour balls

Imagine you are a store manager, and a masked thief has you at gun or knife-point, asking you to empty the cash into his or her bag. How would you recognize the thief outside in a crowd of people? Especially if he or she had an accomplice, and the bag exchanged hands?

Or imagine if a home or bank, or the ATM or even the ATM cash van is being attacked by one or more robbers. Depending on if they have covered their faces, and on how well-lit or dark it is outside, you may or may not be able to recognize the culprits, even if they were in front of you in a police line-up.So what might help in such a situation

Surprisingly, the Japanese have had a solution for over two decades. And a very simple yet innovative one. They have been using baseball sized balls made out of colour pigment. The compound has a shelf life of a few years

Banks and other medium-to-high risk places have them at the counters. In case of a robbery, the employee at the desk merely throws a ball at the thief. The balls break on impact, spraying the colour over a 10 meter radius area. And the colour does not wash off easily, so the police or others would be able to recognize them relatively easily, even in a crowd.

So while even the sight of these anti-crime colour balls sitting in a bowl at a counter were a huge crime deterrent, it was found that whenever a crime occurred, the chances of the attendant throwing one at the criminal (perhaps for fear for their own safety), only about 3% actually threw it.

Even if this innovative solution does not find actual human use, imagine its applications. They could be used as part of automated systems that deploy these upon people crossing restricted or cordoned off areas. Or in case of suspicious activity around ATMs or protected areas.

More about it here: source

If you own, manage or work at a company, and innovation, strategy, problem-solving, and customer experience management are areas of interest, there are ways in which I can help your business grow. More on it here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon &Flipkart.

Changing User Behaviour

Changing User Behaviour

I am currently reading the book Hooked, and happened to read something very important. I shared the excerpt with a design thinking group I am administrator of. The snippet read:

John Gourville, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, stipulates that “many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.”

Nir Eyal

A recent member of the group asked if I could share examples of this.

I said any attempt by a company to break a customers habit toward a competitors product/service, is an example.

This concept needs to be looked at in context of a larger concept of value.

The book says that a product/service attempting to break an existing customer habit must offer 9-times more value than what the customer currently derives from something existing that he/she is habituated with.

One of my favourite examples, that I used in my book, is about keyboards. Interestingly, I found the same example cited in Hooked. This is about the QWERTY keyboard almost all of us are hugely familiar with. And the example of another product that attempted to replace it.
The QWERTY is a very old design. Early 1870s to be exact!

Along the way, a psychologist invented a keyboard called the Dvorak keyboard. After studying usage, he rearranged keys on his keyboard to increase typing speed. What was different, was that the most frequently used keys were put closer together and in the center. A user would spend less time moving to frequently used keys, which were now closer together. Thus Dvorak rightly claimed a significant improvement in typing speeds for anyone who used this new keyboard.

Want something that helps us improve our typing speed?
Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

Learning to use a differently-arranged device should not be too tough for humans from an ability point of view. Surprisingly, the Dvorak keyboard never really took off.

The Dvorak keyboard: image source

Look at the Dvorak keyboard in context of the above 9x benefit. Perhaps the benefit it offered was not high enough for users to leave an old habit (Qwerty). And learn a new one.

To wrap it up… The new guys are like Dr. Dvorak and team. They assume a better product that needs users to do things differently will be an instant success. What they don’t realize, is that users need to see a disproportionately high benefit first. It takes a hugely great product solving a pressing problem, to make customers learn a new way to do something. Little else incentivizes them enough. And in context of more recent startups, it takes astronomical amounts in funding to tempt users to change a behaviour. And that too with no guarantee they will still be around when the offers and freebies stop.

If you own, manage or work at a company, and innovation, strategy, problem-solving, and customer experience management are areas of interest, there are ways in which I can help your business grow. More on it here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon &Flipkart.

Buffer Browser

Source: link

Buffer Browser

Google has become increasingly intrusive over the years. Keep all your location-related settings off, and she still knows where you are. And if that’s enough, she’ll shamelessly ask you to write a review about the place.

If privacy means nothing to you, there is no problem. But in case you’re one of those thousands who is growing increasingly suspicious and concerned with overly greedy and careless businesses like Google, Apple and of course Facebook, I guess now is a good time to think of how we can curtain their intrusion and influence in our lives.

Towards trying to claw-back some of our privacy, I bounced off the idea of a browser to an online community. Here’s a bit about the idea, along with some views that came in.

Your thoughts and ideas are welcome.

I just made up the term ‘buffer browser’ for it.
Consider creating a web browser that uses Google to search and display results back to you. The difference being, that on the back-end, it also continuously fires random other search queries to Google (without displaying those results for you).

How does that make a difference? Because then Google won’t know which of the multiple search queries from your browser are really yours (and which a distraction by your browser). That way, it will be able to “spy, gather and create” a far lesser accurate profile of you.

One concern would be the multiple searches slowing down the machine. But maybe that can be handled. The objective being Google not getting to know which queries were yours, and which were ‘decoys’ from your browser.
What do you think?

Replies:
Anon.1: Google could identify and block automated behaviour, especially if it was a non-stop, background process. Your solution would have to appear somewhat human in order to pass basic bot filters.

Me: Even a few but very diverse searches might do the trick.

Anon.2: How about make an anonymous collection of common searches. Say with tens of thousands of people with varied interests, and shuffle them among all those people.
That way the searches are “real”, and Google has no way of figuring out which one belongs to whom.

One weakness in that technique would be that they could put together a coherent “story” for example if you have five consecutive searches about cows, they’ll know that those are your searches and not one of the randomly chosen ones. Placing random biases on the decoy searches themselves may mitigate that.

Me: The collating and mixing of search queries by multiple users did cross my mind. However, in such a case, the company building the browser would need to have some strong ethical foundations, so as not to just have spawned Google’s inquisitiveness into another effort at gathering user data.

Other suggestions came in to simply switch to DuckDuckGo (DDG). I have used DDG, and search results are nowhere as effective and relevant as Google.

Someone pointed out that DDG shows us what we are looking for, while Google shows us what it wants us to see. While that is highly possible, as search was the core of Google’s founding business, they’re really gone to unbelievable lengths to perfect it. And our problem is not so much with their search (which surely is biased at the moment). But rather, with trying to reduce the amount of our information it constantly captures, even without our consent.

Finally, someone mentioned an already existing solution. Two actually.

  1. https://www.startpage.com/ , that is a search engine that uses Google for search results, without allowing it user access. Not sure how that works, but worth a try…, and
  2. https://cs.nyu.edu/trackmenot/ , which is a browser extension that helps protect web searchers from surveillance and data-profiling by search engines.

Thing is, a bulk of the world currently uses Google’s Chrome browser, which might surely negate the privacy that the above two services offer.

Source: link

One option would be to switch to a different browser and use one of the above two (or any similar) services.

Consider a non-Google browser and StartPage for search. That might be a good first step to reduce Google’s influence on you.

Thoughts and ideas are welcome. Let’s see if we can collaborate on making something possible to limit companies from making billions off of our personal information. And then from influencing our behaviour and buying decisions.

If you run or manage a business, and innovation, strategy, problem-solving, and customer experience management are areas of interest, there are a few ways I can benefit your business. More on it here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. Ebook’s available on Amazon, and paperbacks on leading online bookstores including Amazon &Flipkart. Do leave a review on Amazon once you’ve read it. Thank you!

SHe

CrystalPlanet: SHe
How can we make it easier for them while dismantling the patriarchy?

SHe

Last evening, dad shared links to two tweets with me. Tweets from the UN Women and UNDP Asia-Pacific‘s accounts. Both tweets were about challenging patriarchal stereotypes this womens’ day. One of the tweets wondered if design thinking could be used to disrupt stubborn gender norms.

I don’t see why not!

Gender equality has been extremely elusive or random in society for centuries. And I really wonder how much change if any, witty memes and emotional ads can bring about. Because apart from the actual changemakers like organizations that have not blocked truly deserving women leaders from taking charge at their helm, or women of countries who have literally had to snatch their right to drive, and the small changes by individual in society, a lot of the noise is usually channelized by us only around one day in the year.

So thought I’d share a few views. In the hope we can build on them and make some real, everyday change.

Firstly, where do we start? If we’re to look at it from a design thinking point of view, best place to start is by framing the problem/ opportunity statement!

Ideally, UN’s (tweet) problem/opportunity statement is perfect – about ‘dismantling the patriarchy’. But frankly, we all know how we men have been over the centuries. Look at a developed country like the United States. It has been the world’s poster child when it comes to democracy, freedom of personal choice and expression, and a melting pot of world cultures. And yet, they still have not resolved racism, or completely legalized a woman’s freedom to abort, or rid all industries of corporate glass ceilings for women. And what’s worse, in some states, maternal mortality rates are so high, a woman might have better odds surviving childbirth in the back of a car in a third world country. None of this seems to make equality seem anywhere close, especially in still developing countries like ours.

So, while we can all behave naive and think we’re ‘driving change’ by telling regressive men and women to change; in one way or another, I’d rather frame a problem/ opportunity statement that aims at finding faster solutions than waiting for generations to pass, like we have done so far.

So, how about an opportunity statement that goes: How can everyday for a woman be made more well-balanced (as per her individual standard), so that she may live a much fuller and fulfilling life?

And some solutions or thoughts in that direction:

  • A collective online repository of household or work hackswomen from over the world can learn from or contribute their own innovative ways to balance or reclaim their average day (could be how to use an app differently, or a template to better manage schedules, or a popular service that could help outsource house chores, etc.)
  • Cook for more than one dayIf women need to cook, which often seems to be the case, they could make something for multiple days… (definitely not being pressured to cook once for every meal, as happens in some reserved communities). That way, if the men want more variety in food, they can either cook it, order home, or help with house chores to allow for more time to cook
  • Mobile apps (already mentioned in the UN article) – that make life more efficient for women, on the work or home front

Changes in a corporate culture are usually far easier to implement than at a societal level. So companies could tweak processes so as to allow women (and especially young mothers) a more flexible schedule if needed. The way corporate culture silently taught underlings to follow the boss’ instructions, we could have corporate cultures where an “express” is added to an request by a young mother. That way, she can complete the project as per her schedule, not having to wait on colleagues, thus reducing some of the chaos in her life.

The entertainment industry should really take it upon themselves to help shift world mindsets. With content they create, and more importantly, with the type of content they choose not to create or showcase.

Feel free to add to this, or get working on one or more of these. If you think I can be of any help with ideating on your change idea, drop me an email or something.

*

If you run or manage a business, and innovation, strategy, problem-solving, customer experience or ideation are areas of interest, there are a few ways I can help. More about it here.

My book, ‘Design the Future’ is available as an Ebook on Amazon, and as paperbacks across leading online bookstores including Amazon &Flipkart. Do leave a review on Amazon once you’ve read it. Thanks!

***

Look forward to your views. For similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion, follow or subscribe (top right of the page). You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Who Does Recruiting Best?

Who Does Recruiting Best?

An acquaintance on LinkedIn recently tagged me and some others including a friend, on a post. It was about how design thinking and good practices are applied to several areas of any business, but how recruiting often goes neglected. He said that hiring managers and candidates were often unhappy with the hiring process. He also inquired if design thinking could be applied to improve it.

Here were my thoughts.

Hiring is perceived as complex (and so might qualify as a design thinking problem). But I believe it’s simpler than we make it seem. If only stakeholders – the organization, the hiring manager(s) & candidates are more real. And they give (af) to make hiring and the ensuing job more effective.

Consider an army. I suppose you might agree that it can be considered an HR function? Candidates apply to serve it to their best capability, or as a means to a steady pay or secure career. And yet, many of the candidates are ready to kill or die for the organization (and the underlying ‘country sentiment’).

The difference (and possible solution), I think, lies in the process. The army is clear about the requirement and quality of recruits needed. And they don’t compromise on it with candidates they recruit. So the process is robust, grueling, and without bias or influence. That way, only serious candidates apply, and only the best fits make it through. And those who do, are inherently more likely to give it their best. That is because they have earned their place there. As opposed to getting lucky, using influence or ‘working the system by saying what the HR manager wants to hear’.

*

If you run or manage a business, and innovation, strategy, problem-solving, customer experience or ideation are areas of interest, there are a few ways I can help. More about it here.

My book, ‘Design the Future’ is available as an Ebook on Amazon, and as paperbacks across leading online bookstores including Amazon &Flipkart. Do leave a review on Amazon once you’ve read it. Thanks!

***

Look forward to your views. For similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion, follow or subscribe (top right of the page). You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Staying Power

CrystalPlanet: Staying Power

In the years after starting my strategy consulting practice, during one meeting with one of my mentors, he asked me how work was.

I said it was good, but had a lot of ups and downs. He said he was really glad that I was sticking with it.

He told me that decades ago, as one of the fastest growing leaders in one of India’s biggest conglomerates, he had once written in an article where he had mentioned a human trait. A trait that he wished more people had.

It was, what he called ‘staying power’. According to him, it is the ability for someone to know that there will always be ups and downs, and that when striving for something huge, one must have the ability to hold on through the storms. He said the few people who have it, always reach their goals.

I was recently invited to attend the Maharashtra Startup Week, where I was fortunate to attend two sessions by Bala Girisaballa. In one, he perfectly articulated an entrepreneurs journey. He said, ‘the journey for most entrepreneurs often comprises of spending 90% of their time in the dark (business uncertainty), and then there being a flash and the 10% of good times (or less tormenting times), which then takes the entrepreneur to the next 90% dark phase.’

If you think about it, a good life (one committed to striving for tough goals) should be the same too. Between seemingly impossible 90% challenges. For which we need our staying power.

Goby the Fish

I recently came across an article about an initiative to create awareness about marine pollution.

Some folks living close to a beach (can’t seem to find the beach’s location), created a giant, transparent fish. Made of mesh and barbed wire, it had a signboard which read, ‘Goby loves plastic, please feed him.’

It made for a fun game for visitors, who helped fill it with trash lying around. But it probably also created a hard-hitting visual for everyone who saw it. A giant, transparent fish filled with plastic would leave a lasting impression in anyone compared to reading articles about marine pollution.

What’s concerning however, is that we humans are getting smarter by the generation. And yet it takes increasingly creative ways for us to register the consequences of the mistakes we keep repeating.

Source of the article: link

*

If you run or manage a business, and innovation, strategy, problem-solving, customer experience or ideation are areas of interest, there are a few ways I can help. More about it here.

My book, ‘Design the Future’ is available as an Ebook on Amazon & Kobo, and as paperbacks across leading online bookstores including Amazon &Flipkart. I’ll look forward to your review on Amazon once you’ve read it.

***

Look forward to your views. For similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion, follow or subscribe (top right of the page). You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Context

One of the fundamental ingredients of an impactful innovation or successful design thinking exercise, is empathy. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Often, in our enthusiasm to create something someone (a customer segment, employees, or even society), or to solve a problem for them, we tend to knowingly or unknowingly speed up the process. We skip the part of trying to understand the problem or the cause of it. Or the unexpressed need. We create, and we expect (or at least hope for) delight from those receiving our innovations or solutions.

This simple image I came across online gives great context to our urgency to solve problems or innovate. An infant is too young to realize or even see clearly, the flaw in this. If a simple flaw like this could be missed by most of us, what else might we be missing? How little effort are we taking to look at business innovation or problem-solving from the right ‘context’?

Source: link

Small efforts in understanding customer needs, go a long way. Apart from feeling appreciated and important, customers help us get closer to innovative solutions they are willing to pay for. The least we can do is look at their needs and problems from their perspective.

*

If you run or manage a business, and innovation, strategy, problem-solving, customer experience or ideation are areas of interest, there are a few ways I can help. More about it here.

My book, ‘Design the Future’ is available as an Ebook on Amazon & Kobo, and as paperbacks across leading online bookstores including Amazon & Flipkart. Look forward to your review on Amazon once you’ve read it.

***

Look forward to your views. For similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion, follow or subscribe (top right of the page). You can also connect with me onLinkedIn and onTwitter.

Built In Your Image

CrystalPlanet : Built In Your Image

When we barely understand fellow humans, do you think AI will?

We encourage people to be objective, and not to be emotionally imbalanced. We even look down on the rare outburst by family or friends. Right?

And there’s a reason for it. Nobody likes someone who is always cranky. However, I wonder if even the rare outbursts or breakdowns by people we know, are really that bad.

For instance, people from smaller towns sometimes tend to be more attuned to their emotional side (by emotional, I don’t mean emotionally imbalanced, but rather, let’s say, ‘more human’ or warm, and also perhaps more easily offended) compared to those living in metros who, given the fast-paced life, often tend to be more disconnected and aloof to most things. Only, I don’t know if the metro way is the absolute right way, or the small town way, wrong.

Attending a lecture by Prof. Yuval Noah Harari seemed to at least slightly reinforce the thought, unless I missed some point.

Prof. Harari spoke of how organisations are and will continue to enhance human capability. And that while that would grow existing or new abilities in us, how it might shrink our emotional side, which in turn could be more detrimental than good. That seemed to explain the fast-paced pursuit in larger cities and our resulting disposition.

So have we, over the decades, even without biotechnology to enhance us, been gradually pushing ourselves to be more analytical at the risk of being cold and indifferent, while simultaneously punishing by isolating those who tend to be more emotional and arguably in turn, ‘more human’?

So while outbursts like road rage are never good, I am sure there are sufficient and more people out there, students, employees and others who are silently fighting their own battles, and each time they resist an outburst or an expression of their thoughts, and instead bottle it up, they perhaps end up doing more damage to themselves than good.

That is one part of the problem.

The other, more concerning part, given the above dilemma of whether we should allow people the occasional outburst without making it look like a forbidden crime, or not; is the fact that we know so little about human behaviour!

Yet we somehow seem to be alright with artificial intelligence being allowed to learn from us. With the possibility that someday there might be AI systems guiding nations about defensive or offensive actions. About how people are or might be, about how situations might pan out, and allowing man to indulge in his affinity for preemptive action.

It might also cause unstoppable actions on the part of AI. Unless we somehow feel optimistic that AI might in fact, help humans understand ourselves and each other better someday.

Because otherwise, it’ll just be like that phrase that went around during the early days of the computer… Garbage in..garbage out.

*

If innovation, strategy, problem-solving, customer experience or ideation are areas of interest, you might enjoy reading my book, ‘Design the Future‘.
Ebook available on Amazon and Kobo, and paperbacks across leading online bookstores including Amazon, Flipkart & Infibeam.
If you do buy the book, would appreciate a review on Amazon once you’ve read it.

***

Look forward to your views. And if you liked this post, do follow or subscribe to my blog (top right of the page) for similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.