August 25, 2016 / INNOVATION IS HARD
August 25, 2016
In 1899 the commissioner of the US Patent office, Charles Duell stated that “everything that can be invented, has been invented” and followed this with a recommendation that the patent office close its doors permanently. This catapults the idea that complacency kills creativity and motivates an attitude and philosophy that companies must innovate strategically to avoid becoming tomorrow’s anachronism.
The Economist has called innovation the industrial religion of the 21st century, and if you are asked to define innovation you might find that it is a complicated task. This is due to the elasticity around modern day innovation as it has advanced far beyond the introduction of a new product, method, idea or technological advancement. A Google search further highlights this intricate endeavor as it produces nearly 90 million findings in less than a half of a second, offering an endless range of definitions from a limitless list of influencers. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Innovation is the act of taking something that worked over there and using it over here.” –Seth Godin
“Innovation is something that most affects the future of humanity.” –Elon Musk
“Innovation is creating something before people know they need it.” –Guy Kawasaki
“When you innovate, you must brace yourself as others will surely tell you that you are nuts.” –Larry Ellison
Innovation has become enigmatic, a true shapeshifter capable of unlocking hidden value, providing great differentiation and delivering unique and unexpected consumer experiences.
Innovation is about being truly unorthodox.
While there are countless examples of unconventional innovation, we have a few creative examples that solve problems, deliver the unexpected, and in many cases will have a profound affect on humanity.
MAKE THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE
Following a perfect storm of relaxed rules governing the sale of less than perfect fruit by the European Union, a sensitivity to farmer crop waste and growing consumer awareness helped launch France’s Intermarché inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign. The chain took a leap of faith behind a brilliant idea highlighting disfigured fruit which tastes as good, if not better than, perfect specimens growing on the same branch at a discount to customers. In addition to great sales, the organization also helped raise awareness around food waste (estimated in Europe to exceed over 100 tons annually) by helping their fellow farmers keep this otherwise wasted produce in circulation. The result was revenues in both parties’ pockets and otherwise fantastic tasting food on people’s plates.
INNOVATION BEYOND VAINGLORIOUS
Being brave can also be extremely innovative. With over a half million followers on Instagram and an equally robust YouTube channel, Australian social media icon Essena O’neill rewrote each summary on every single one of her previously storied Instagram posts. Each Instagram post was comprised of Essena at the center of seemingly glorious fashion shoots promoting brands and products. Her honest editing was followed a few days later by a self-directed shut down of her social media platforms and a video letter to her followers encouraging them to focus on more important things in life than “perfectly orchestrated, self-absorbed judgment.” She also stated that “taking myself off social media is a wake-up call to anyone who follows me. I thought I had the dream life with over a half-million followers on Instagram and I came to realize that I was leading a false life. I want to tell you that having it all on social media means absolutely nothing to your real life.” Considering we are drowning in a hashtag social media world doused with self-indulgence, it’s only a matter of time before this current state of overindulgence manifests itself into a new form.
BE PREPARED FOR OTHERS TO TELL YOU THAT YOU’RE NUTS
It is estimated that governments, universities and firms spend over $1.4 trillion on R&D annually to drive innovation—yet it often takes a unique perspective, a bit of creative problem solving and a tremendous amount of passion for a small and nimble group to completely flip the script on a large corporation’s strategy and deliver something unexpected and better. The Shoe That Grows is that brilliant innovation. This team took a page out of the books of innovative sneaker companies and contemporary social enterprise brands to advance their cause. The Shoe That Grows has designed and developed a footwear solution that allows the wearer to adjust the shoe’s size so it grows larger along with the child’s foot. A concept which is greatly beneficial in third world countries and also provides a powerful solution for the nearly 21% of American youth under 18 who fall below the poverty line. Imagine a shoe that lasts for multiple years, freeing up shoe money to instead fund basic essentials like food, shelter, schooling and more. Innovating through practical compassion is a winning strategy.
IF YOU’RE READING THIS, THERE’S STILL TIME
LA artist Morley is known for his provocative street art, which blends hope, humor and a unique perspective on life to help onlookers “pay attention”. His work aligns perfectly with a movement where brands have begun to use their larger platforms to evoke a sense of compromise and resolution. In light of the recent Edelman report which finds that nearly 70% of people trust businesses to keep pace with a changing world, while only 40% of people trust governments to do the same, Smirnoff leveraged their brand purpose around inclusivity in a way that demonstrates why the American story of immigration should be one of pride and helps to make America a unique place to live. “Working with Morley allows us to visually share how individuals with amazing immigration stories have positively impacted the growth of our country”, states Smirnoff.
This powerful human experience delivers touching stories from immigrants themselves through ten select Morley pieces. Each provides incredible insight and diversity to help beautifully unify the audience with hope, positivity and a deeper knowledge and awareness of immigration. “Instead of highlighting differences to cause separation, let’s celebrate our differences as they contribute to our amazing culture.” Innovation around inclusivity is a noteworthy model that should inspire brands to dig deeper.
While there are many examples of unique innovation, Ryan Tate’s research best sums up what defines successful innovation as it encourages potential innovators that “breaking traditional rules fuels innovation.” Considering that the best time to innovate is all of the time, being told that you’re just a tad bit nuts might be the most rewarding compliment you’ve ever received. Hey nut, what are you waiting for?