As part of our endeavor to connect our body clocks to our wrist watches today we had an interesting conversation about innovation and connections. The example we used was weaponry and the simple challenge of putting a hole in a man.
The progression went something like this: rock – knife – sword – spear – lance – bow – gun – drone.
Each step recalls not onthe the original problem but it makes a connection between that first problem and the evolution of the next level problem.
- A rock will put a hole in a man but it takes a lot of effort
- To use less effort put a point on it, you get a knife
- But you still have to really close, so create a longer knife, sword, or strap a knife to a stick, spear.
- But as armor evolves the sword or spear needs more thrust.
- To get more thrust ride a horse and use a lance.
- But what if you could start the same distance away and NOT have to ride at the man? You get a bow.
You see how it works? The innovation is really just evolution in response to a specific problem.
Too often people sit down to “be creative” and come up with something “innovative” and completely miss the key ingredient…the problem they are trying to solve.
This little exercise/conversation leads to a set of simple steps for innovating.
Step 1: Capture the original challenge: In the case above, how to put a hole in a man. We’re not creating something from scratch here, we’re looking at a next generation innovation.
Step 2: Identify the problem to solve: Above it is how to put a hole in a man from a greater distance. So you don’t wind up leaping to a new thing, you put a small amount of distance into the equation.
Step 3: Solve the step-wise problem: To often people kill the sword idea, no pun intended, as being “not far ENOUGH away” but it DOES solve the problem. You might choose to jump to the spear as a kind of “yes/and…” to the sword.
The key is to remember that all three ingredients are equally important. If you leave out step one you may drift too far from the original problem/solution match. If you leave out step 2 you risk getting into the creative weeds or go the wrong direction again. If you leave out step 3 you don’t land on anything.
Where are you trying to innovate? What is the original problem and what is the connected problem?