The Surprising Effect of Innovation

by Jose Mello

The Surprising Effect of InnovationA question always present when discussing a portfolio of innovation projects is: – How to define if this is an innovation project or not?

Whenever I take part in this kind of discussion, I usually bring my own definition of innovation: – “Innovation is something that you will easily recognize when you see it, because it is always surprising and transforms people´s lives”. Michael Schrage said recently at an innovation conference in Brazil: – “Innovation is not what innovators offer, but what consumers adopt” – And that is definitively TRUE!!!

It is impossible to say that the result of a project will be innovative before starting it. The right question to ask should be: – How might we turn this project into an innovation project? Or, how might we add some differentiation to this product or service, so that consumers could recognize it as something “cool” and adopt it? Or, even, how might we transform people´s life in such astonishing way that it would look like magic?
What I mean is that, every project, even the simplest one, is a great opportunity to be innovative just by adding some “surprising effect” to it. For example:

What is so innovative about Apple iPhone? It is recognized as a great innovation, but: cell phone with built-in photographic cameras, touch-screen devices, mobile applications, everything already existed before Iphone. What makes Iphone a huge innovation is its “surprising effect”. Apple made all this technology accessible in a simple one-click useful way. Usability is the great differentiator of iPhone, and it is so simple to use that it looks like magic!

What would you say about Spoonachos? Spoonachos is a new spoon shaped nachos from the Serbian designer Denis Bostandzic. It is so simple and so amazing that you cannot believe how no one had thought about it before!

These are only two examples of how sophisticated or simple your innovation approach can be and it is not a matter of money or technology it’s a matter of how cool is the result of your project. That is what I call “the surprising effect”!

Now you might be thinking of how could you add a surprising effect to make your projects more innovative? Here I have six tips to help you with that:

1.) Observe: get out of the office and observe in real life how people use your products and services. Observe people in their day-to-day activities.

2.) Make it simple: think about ways to simplify your client´s life. If you will make your client´s life more complicated to add a new feature to your product or service, forget about it!

3.) Do the unexpected: think about unusual ways to deliver your product or service to your client.

4.) Explore your constraints: constraints, such as, cost, project budget, size, points-of-sale limitations, are usually thoughtful ways to come up with great ideas.

5.) Try to break your ideas: Test them in real life. Build prototypes to validate your ideas with real users that can provide unbiased feedback to you. Every feedback that brings you back to the drawing board is an amazing opportunity to innovation.

And last but not least…

6.) Be charming: You need to attract and keep you clients always in love with your brand. So try to be charming in every point of contact with them. Think about the whole experience of delivering your new product or service.

And now, what about you? What is your “surprising effect” tip? I’m pretty sure you have one…

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Jose MelloJose Mello is a teacher, speaker and a specialist in innovation management at Itau Unibanco Bank, in Brazil.

No comments

  1. We often forget about the clients and we stay focused on the project itself. The surprising effect has and important role in creating a brand and a new approach/relationship with the clients.

  2. The thing that most amazes me about innovation is actually making a diference in people’s lives. It may be a change in your product, something that has been made more useful – like the genious idea of spoonachos. It may be a change in the way you deliver a service to your client – like Apple has done with the iPhones, that has been turned into a whole different communication plattform, you can’t even say iPhone is really a phone, because it’s so much more than that. It may also be an improvement you make in the way you relate to your client – you can choose to be more transparent, ethical, to design products and services that suit your client’s need and not only your companies drive for results.

    When I think about innovation, one of the criterias I personally take into consideration is: How might we make people’s lives better by designing something they need and wish for?

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