Innovation is Fresh Combinations
Fresh combinations of technologies, processes, materials, people, trends, concepts, and other factors are what creates innovation.
From the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (chocolate plus peanut butter) to the iPod (MP3 player combined with a buying system, iTunes) nearly any innovation combines existing things or concepts. It’s interesting that large organizations with lots of intellectual property don’t systematically examine what they can combine to innovate.
Maybe it’s because concept blends across very different domains are not intuitive. Deliberate concept blends, combinations, are not a defined part of existing innovation frameworks. It’s a big missing, and, an opportunity to improve.
How much innovation is being left on the table by ignoring cross-domain concept blends?
It’s incalculable, but certainly it’s worth billions. Innovation leaders and CEO’s leave breakthrough on the table because their innovation processes leave out deliberate combinations. Do this experiment: Make a list of the new digital technologies (AI, Social Media, Internet of Things, Robotics). Then, make a list next to it of your existing products and IP portfolio. Ask yourself, what could be combined, from your existing portfolio, with those new digital capabilities? Walk down the list and spend ten minutes thinking. I can almost guarantee you’ll have ideas.
Local economic development leaders could do this same exercise, listing local assets on one side, and new technology (or trends) on the other. Deliberate combinations, aka concept blends, can be done by individuals, companies, non-profits, or governments.
This simple combination experiment only scratches the surface, you usually need more scaffolding and structure to go beyond obvious ideas. My solution for more extensive and deliberate combination making is MoshPit Innovation.
Are you an Innovation Director? Why not do a workshop dedicated to new combinations on a yearly or bi-yearly basis? Innovation Directors and CEO’s — why not? The potential is enormous; the risk and expense to try is low. The results will feed your existing innovation process.
Why are idea generation tools for deliberate combinations needed?
The human mind finds it challenging to cope with a blank slate. Combinations of similar things are easy, the more different the concepts to combine are, the less likely your mind will see the connection.
The mind is not organized to create from nothing. It’s organized to create with the elements of creation in mind, and preferably, visibly and kinetically available. Steve Jobs said innovation is about connecting the dots, and I suggest that dots are easier to connect, if there is an awareness of what dots are available to connect. The dots most people leave out are from domains outside your industry and expertise. That’s what needs to be brought into the picture for breakthrough innovation.
There is a great deal of focus today on the process of innovation. Design Thinking, Agile, Lean, and older frameworks like CPS (aka Osborn-Parnes) are all attempts to find the system, the process steps, that will assist in repeating innovation. Innovation frameworks are important, but something powerful is being systematically left out of the ideation step.
Every innovation process has an ideation step. If you do extensive research, and careful observation of consumers to gain insights, at some point you have to apply it. It’s assumed that the team of idea people will just do combinations organically. But it’s the rare case when a facilitator deliberately works combinations, and brings in “outside domain” data or stimuli. Why not spin the dial of possible combinations more deliberately? You will see things, and ideas will pop up, that you would otherwise have missed.
Even more rare is the facilitator or innovation process leader who deliberately puts the matrix of known and lesser known elements in front of ideators in a systematic way. This is why I created MoshPit Innovation. MoshPit templates and exercises work within the ideation step of any innovation process.
MoshPit combination templates are augmented with objects, products, trends, improv games, and other ways to work the combination clay. It’s deep idea exploration. It’s fun. It works.
Whatever innovation process you use, make combinations more deliberate. If you want to learn more about MoshPit Innovation techniques, by all means get in touch.