Companies typically see time, space and matter as constraints. That’s not surprising — those three elements define the boundaries of our everyday reality. But what if we saw them not as constraints but as malleable resources for innovation?
That’s the mind-bending proposition Joe Pine presented at Dassault Systèmes’ 3D EXPERIENCE Forum. Lest you dismiss Pine as a wide-eyed dreamer, recall that his book, Mass Customization, introduced a seemingly impossible paradox when it was released in 1992, but that concept is now so widely implemented that it’s a de rigueur business practice. The fusion of opposites provides opportunities for innovation.
So how do we utilize time, space and matter for innovation? Pine lays out the steps in his latest book, Infinite Possibility. The way forward, Pine says, is to play with the opposites of time, space and matter, namely no-time, no-space and no-matter. Whereas time, space and matter constitute our usual realm of Reality, no-time, no-space and no-matter constitute a new realm of pure Virtual Reality.
If we fuse reality and virtual reality in various mix-and-match combinations, then we can come up with a host of new products, services and, most importantly, customer experiences. Using these three dimensions, Pine details an eight-realm new universe (“multiverse”) that pairs eight combinations of time vs. no-time, space vs. no-space, matter vs. no-matter.
Let’s start by exploring a realm that is only one step removed from reality, what Pine calls “Augmented Reality.” Compared to reality, which has time, space and matter, Augmented Reality has time, space and no-matter. The “no-matter” condition refers to the information that is overlaid onto reality.
Here’s an example: say you’re driving down the street in a city unfamiliar to you. You are in a real space and in a real time. But, you can use a device to overlay information (“no-matter”) onto that current reality. That is, you can use a GPS navigation aid to show you where the nearest bakery is. The GPS gives you data (“no-matter”) that you can’t see yet in the real world (a bakery around the corner a few blocks away). With that information, your reality is augmented — you can navigate to the bakery and get the cupcake you crave.
Companies can apply these concepts to new product development, such as airplane repair. Consider an app that lets mechanics point an iPhone at a distant airplane on the tarmac and get an immediate overlay of the maintenance and repairs that need to be done for that specific plane.
image credits: 3ds.com; bkconnection.com
Author of more than 450 company case studies and contributor to 28 books, Andrea Meyer writes & ghostwrites about innovation, IT and strategy for clients like MIT, Harvard Business School, McKinsey & Co., and Forrester Research. Follow her at www.workingknowledge.com/blog and twitter.com/AndreaMeyer.