Reinventing Combinations, Concept Blends, and Mash-Ups
I’ve been touting concept blends in innovation for some time. My reason is simple, it’s a fast path to new and different ideas. From the Printing Press to the iPhone, big new market-creating innovation happens when concepts from two different domains are combined. These Mash-Ups are not intuitive for most people to do and maybe that’s why some people try it and fail. Take heart, smart people can do concept blends with careful mental scaffolding.
The key benefit to concept blends for organizations is finding breakthrough innovation. It’s my contention that a lot of breakthrough innovation is left on the table because not enough thinking work is done to combine well known, if very disparate, concepts.
Isn’t breakthrough innovation enough of a benefit for organizations? Weirdly, for some organizations it’s not, because they’re not actually looking for breakthrough innovation. Some organization are actively waving it off! Many are organized to resist breakthrough and focus on incremental innovation. Innovation leaders are rewarded for incremental, low risk, innovation — but that’s another topic.
At KILN, we’ve tried to encourage a holistic, hands-on, whole-brained way to combine concepts. We focused on using inspiration from global trends applied to an organizations broad business challenges. The commercial product/service we invented at KILN, and now offer, is called IdeaKeg. IdeaKeg works, we’ve consistently wowed clients and even academics with the methods effectiveness at finding breakthrough.
Here’s the thing that I’ve discovered working with clients at KILN and Gregg Fraley Innovation (GFI). Really, IdeaKeg doesn’t go far enough. Don’t get me wrong, IdeaKeg can be, and is, super effective. The scaffolding for mash-up thinking in the IdeaKeg framework is a necessary factor in any complex concept blend. Indeed, if you want to do concept blending for innovation, there is hardly a better place to start than IdeaKeg.
And, there’s more that can be done with concept blending, because there is more out there to blend.
What’s more powerful than IdeaKeg is an even broader concept blending framework. A “MoshPit” where the elements (domains) listed below are combined by carefully composed diverse teams, in a rigorous way, to apply to broad organizational challenges:
Set A — Domains of Concepts Outside Your Organization
- Global Trends
- Consumer Insights
- New Materials or Science
Set B — Domains of Concepts Inside Your Organization
- Organizational IP
- Unique Org Capabilities
- Existing Products and Services
With careful facilitation and rigorous planning, you then have a MoshPit intensive workshop session that scaffolds and explores the concept “dots” inside each of the elements above. Imagine if you will a very rich set of concepts a team develops for each of the domains listed above. Focused small teams combine listed concepts from inside Set A with concepts listed inside Set B. They will have never before had such a rich set of dots to connect.
I guarantee you will come up with breakthrough concepts using a MoshPit; it’s almost difficult not to.
This is a process oriented towards big “I” innovation, not incremental, although that might fall out. My vision is this front-ends a yearly innovation cycle. There is no reason why a MoshPit session can’t be done within any other innovation method, be it Design Thinking, Lean, or whatever your organization uses. In fact, the combination of this new tool with those older frameworks can make those methods more effective.
MoshPit is what I’m calling this matrix of concept blending. Like a dance MoshPit, a lot of mashing-up is going to happen. Unlike the complete chaos of a dance MoshPit, an innovation MoshPit is a carefully prepared combination of combinational chaos with focused structure.
That’s the concept. I can tell you (in a non-Trumpian way) that the secret sauce of how to make this work is how the session is prepared and facilitated. Combining concepts from different domains requires artful scaffolding that leads people and teams to intuitive connections. The planning and facilitation is the hard part, once the table is set, the combinations come naturally.
I’ve spent the last ten years figuring out how to do that artful scaffolding — and do it consistently. This is not Post-It Note brainstorming folks. It’s more like a focused psychedelic ideation experience, but without drugs. It’s better than drugs! What you will get is business results.
The benefit, as I said above is Breakthrough Innovation. Wouldn’t you like to see how much of that good stuff your organization is leaving on the table undiscovered? Simply because you haven’t looked at the possible combinations? If your organization is highly “silo-ed” a MoshPit session might be the perfect way to cross those divides.
Don’t get punked, but do MoshPit.