At times it is best to take an “opposites” approach when striving to improve your innovation process. We often recommend and use brainstorming and massive idea collection to be innovative. Another approach is to start from within to create meaning and value that customers will delight in. (Easy to say, but hard to do!)

This quote sums it up:

“When all think alike, then no one is thinking!” — Walter Lippman

A new way to look at innovation is to consider innovative products as a “gift.” A person rarely falls in love with a gift they asked for. If a customer asks you for a new derivative and innovative product, they will buy it but not delight in it. If you give them a gift that comes from your idea of value and meaning, they will feel stronger about that product. If you don’t love it, how could they? Your pursuit of meaning will connect you to your customers through your innovative products.

In a book titled Overcrowded: Designing Meaningful Products in a World Awash in Ideas, the foreword from author Roberto Verganti explains the essence:

“Everyone is a creator of meaning

    We create meaning through the humans we love

    But we also create meaning in the humbleness and responsibility of our everyday work

    Each one of us through our profession- as managers, designers, scholars, artists, scientists-

    generates products, services, events that carry meaning to the life of all people

    We may bring happiness, relieve pain, and open new opportunities.

    Beyond our own awareness, each one of us has an impact on the life of others,

    Through the vision we nurture and the new things we advance”

According to Amazon’s description of the book, “….  Verganti offers a new approach — one that does not set out to solve existing problems but to find breakthrough meaningful experiences. There is no brainstorming — which produces too many ideas, unfiltered — but a vision, subject to criticism. It does not come from outsiders but from one person’s unique interpretation.

“The alternate path to innovation mapped by Verganti aims to discover not how things work but why we need things. It gives customers something more meaningful — something they can love. Verganti describes the work of companies, including Nest Labs, Apple, Yankee Candle, and Philips Healthcare, that have created successful businesses by doing just this. Nest Labs, for example, didn’t create a more advanced programmable thermostat, because people don’t love to program their home appliances. Nest’s thermostat learns the habits of the household and bases its temperature settings accordingly.

“Verganti discusses principles and practices, methods and implementation. The process begins with a vision and proceeds through developmental criticism, first from a sparring partner and then from a circle of radical thinkers, then from external experts and interpreters, and only then from users.

“Innovation driven by meaning is the way to create value in our current world, where ideas are abundant but novel visions are rare. If something is meaningful for both the people who create it and the people who consume it, business value follows.

A great example in the book is about the Nest thermostat we have discussed in other blogs:

“Nest Labs vision went in the exactly opposite direction from the incumbents in the industry: Nest designed products that ‘feel like home’ rather than making them overly techy or pretentious. This vision redefined what is meaningful in the market: comfort rather than programming, simplicity rather than complexity, trusting the device rather than controlling it. Most of these features would never be recognized by competitive firms that want to put users in control of the temperature, and some would even be banned as outlandish. But when customers saw Nest’s new interpretation, they found it more meaningful, and fell in love.”

To innovate your innovation, put the lessons of this book into practice

Keep innovating!

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