The 2 things which if you’re not achieving, you’re not innovating –
- Solving a contradiction.
- Finding new needs of customers
If you’re not onto these two, you might be pleasing yourself immensely with your new technology. While that may thrill you, it is unlikely to create any major differential between you and your competitor.
Let us talk more of these two.
Solving a Contradiction
A contradiction is seen when you find yourself in a situation where you find something desirable, as well as undesirable. A simple, somewhat simplistic, example is that of the roof over my head now. It is desirable since it protects me from rain. At the same time, it is also undesirable because it is preventing natural light and air reaching me. There are several forms of Contradictions, but we won’t go into them here. It is more important to know how contradictions occur and, therefore, why removing them is big stuff.
The S curve phenomenon of products ensures that the benefits coming from any product increase exponentially with time, particularly after the initial settling down period and then, up to quiet some time. Even a slight investment of resources in the product gives great results. However, after some time, the benefits begin to taper off. Even large investments fail to produce even moderate return on investment. The product is said to hit the top flat part of the S curve. This happens solely due to some contradiction in the product or its technology. There is some mismatch somewhere, some linkage between two aspects of the product or technology which has caused this situation. Unless that mismatch is removed, that link broken, any further investments in it fails to yield good results.
Once the contradiction is removed, the product is now on its way to a new journey of S curve, Once more, it will have the initial settling down period, then the heydays when every penny put in it yields dollars. Then, once more, it hits the top flat part of the curve when it becomes hopelessly dull. Why, it has again hit a contradiction an dis waiting for some smart innovator to solve it.
Finding new needs of customers
A customer buys a product to satisfy some need. So, if you can meet some new need in him, you’ll always have his money.
While this seems axiomatic, it is not easy to fully realise the difficulties involved in it. This is because most needs are need easily seen. Why is WhatsApp such a hit? There is no great technology involved in it. It is a hit because it addresses a new need of today’s generation i.e. the desire to connect with others and express themselves in some easy, free format. Now this need- the desire to connect with others and express themselves in some easy, free format – is an intangible. It is not easy to find out so you have to sense it indirectly. It was simply not possible to find out this need by circulating a survey on customer preferences.
Why do people buy a Smartphone? Certainly, not to merely communicate! You would have noticed that the features relating to communication in Smartphones have hardly changed in the last decade. What changes on almost a monthly basis are the features related to its camera. Why have people suddenly become so interested on photographing themselves? They haven’t. They’re merely more interested in —- ? You guessed it right. They’re interested in ‘connecting with others and express themselves in some easy, free format.’
Here I hasten to add that the desire to connect with others and express yourself in some easy, free format is not the ONLY intangible need around which you can innovate. You need to find out which of the needs of the customer can you meet with the available technology and the resources that you have.
TRIZ makes it possible to do both – solve contradiction and find out more needs of the customer.