The Innovation Pipeline - Innovation Inspires Innovation.

How consumption of innovative services inspires newer innovation from you (Part one) 
Mentions: HBR, Sony, Twitter, facebook, Instagram, google, whatsapp

Roman is a young upcoming worker in a tech firm. As is common in the tech community, Roman has no difficulty putting to use the available numbers of devices and apps to navigate the internet. The devices and apps Roman uses helps him get things done in ways that wouldn't have been possible if not for synergies between apps and devices. 

For example, today, if Roman wants to show his friends what he is having for lunch, he whips out his smartphone, takes a picture, does a wee bit of photo editing and shares it on Facebook or twitter or even via whatsapp. Five years ago, Roman wouldn't have had it so easy. Ten years ago, the thought of sharing a picture of his lunch would have never occurred to him. Even if it did, it would have been laughed off as ridiculously silly and needy.

Consuming innovative products and services can be weirdly inspiring. It coaxes out the problem solver in you. It takes your imagination out for a walk. It lets you connect the dots between various products and services to help you achieve your goal. Much like Roman used a Smartphone made by Sony, took a picture of his lunch using the inbuilt camera (that has a ridiculous number of megapixels ) that is interfaced to a camera app, edited the picture using Google’s Photos app and then checked out the finished photo on Sony’s Album app before sharing it on facebook, twitter or whatsapp (all three apps run on the smartphone), the consumer of today's connected devices uses a multitude of apps, devices and services to achieve otherwise unheard ends.

As a result, Roman used a total of 4+ apps developed by 3+ vendors (don’t forget about the 5 inch smartphone that includes a ridiculously large camera) to share a picture of his lunch. By the way, sharing pictures of your meals is actually a thing. Check it out here and if people who take pictures of their food annoy you, check this hilarious open letter to people who take pictures of food here

This leads to following up on a saying of the legendary Adam Smith (1776) when he said ‘it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages’. (It makes you feel very small when you’re quoting someone who lived 200 years ago.) The butcher, brewer and the baker have been replaced  in this story with the app vendor, device manufacturer and internet service provider. Our dinner is our consumption of technology.

Today, the internet population is constantly on the lookout for easier ways to doing things. And it’s not limited to individuals. Individuals make up organizations and then organizations too are constantly on the look out for easier and inexpensive ways to get things done. This line of thinking, this ability to realize that a task is taking up too much time or resources and realizing that there MUST be a quicker, cheaper way to do it can only come from these very people being exposed to innovative ways of solving problems. So which came first, the innovator or the innovative solution?

Creativity inspires creativity. Creativity, when used in problem solving, inspires the observer to become a creative himself. For most people to become a creative they need to have witnessed someone else's creativity first hand. It is only then that you realize the power of an individual. As Plato is supposed to have once said “necessity is the mother of all invention”, you need to have a problem to solve in order to truly become a creative.     

Once the problem is identified along with available resources, you use your resources in a manner that will get you to your goal. The fewer resources you have, the more creative your efforts will be. 

Innovation is much like creativity. But innovation, in my opinion, goes the extra mile. While creativity is about dreaming up new things with existing ideas, innovation is more about reducing or eliminating the number of steps taken to accomplish a task. Whilst creativity may take time, innovation reduces costs or time or both. Basically it’s a more efficient way of getting something done, while providing the same or more returns. You cannot be innovative and compromise on customer delight at the same time. It must be said, ‘innovation always favors the user’.

In order for you to develop your capacities as an innovator of solutions or devices, it is important that you first consume innovation as a part of your daily tech diet. You need to be aware of the sheer pace that technology is overwhelming people with. Messages of utmost importance that took three days to reach the reader now takes less than a couple of seconds to reach someone halfway across the globe. You need to be aware that in order to make your product or service appealing to your market, your product or service has to be better than what is already out there. It isn't as easy to fool people as it was before. Know that the bar has been raised

Similar to the Sales Funnel that is used by Sales Managers and marketers, innovation too has a pipeline of its own. Consumption of innovation inspires ordinary product developers to combine existing products together to achieve a higher goal. The best example I can use to illustrate this would be to talk about how Roman uses a variety of apps in order to finally post a pic of his meal on facebook, twitter or whatsapp. The end innovation here is instagram. The social photo-sharing app that makes use of Roman’s smartphone and features to come up with an innovation to sharing pictures on the internet.

But unlike the sales funnel, where leads are stuffed in one end and paying customers come out the other end, the innovation funnel is one where you are the funnel. You consume as much innovation as you can, and you digest all of this innovation and when you develop your product, your product contains elements of innovation that you consumed. Your end product is all of the steps that needed to be carried out simplified into one single simple task. Your end product is progress.

Checkout The Discipline Of Innovation by Peter F Drucker .

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