Breakthrough Innovations

Introducing Vycle:

Vycle is a human-powered vertical transport system for our expanding cities. It’s a cross between a cycle and an elevator. This enables us to use the concepts of riding a cycle but instead of going forward, we go up. This idea also combines the idea of allowing us to do a little bit of exercise over the course of the day, without having to take time out to exercise from our schedules. There is already a growing body of science that shows that non-intensive and consistent movement through out the day might be much more beneficial than intense workout for 45 mins and limited or no body movement for rest of the day.

vycle – urban vertical movement from Elena Larriba on Vimeo.

Introducing Encore Cistern:

Encore has created a toilet system that uses the water condensed from air-conditioning for flushing toilets. Currently, the condensed water from air conditioning is mostly wasted. This product has the potential to save millions of gallons of water and re-use it as the water for use in the toilets. You can find out how this product works here.

Introducing Koda from Kodasema:

Koda is a movable 150k£ home that can be moved and placed wherever there is an open space. It just requires a space of 30 sq. metres. It doesn’t require a foundation –> so can be moved from one place to a different place using trucks & it can be quickly set up. This could potentially be a great solution for affordable housing, without any compromise in the quality of the home from the inside. On the contrary, it looks and feels very good when we are in the home. You can take a virtual tour of the home here. You can also watch a video that shows how it looks and feels here.

So, what is common in all of these three very diverse products? What is it about these ideas that makes them unique and clearly innovative, with the potential of creating new markets, if executed well.

Multiple Problems addressed by a single solution:

Each one of these ideas combine two or more different challenges and address them together in one single solution. Most creative ideas that go one to become product or categories by themselves have similar applications.

  • Uber solved multiple challenges (hassle free transportation for one set of customers & creating a new income stream for another set of customers) with one solution.
  • AirBnB does the same as well (a different experience, potentially cheaper, better and a more intimate travel experience for the traveller and the ability to make some extra money for home owners).
  • Kickstarter does the same as well (a way for makers to find takers for their products by bye-passing gate-keepers and a platform for early adopters to find and fund cool ideas. Quirky does the same but in a different way.

And if we look at various other category creating products, there is a good likelihood that the product addresses multiple challenges with the single product.

Challenge Conventional Wisdom:

All of them break conventional wisdom in their respective spaces. It takes someone who challenges the conventional wisdom of the air conditioner industry to even think about the water that condenses as a result of air-conditioning and see that as a potential opportunity. Similarly, it takes someone who can challenge the conventional wisdom that cycles are supposed to move forward and back and not up and down. Similarly, it takes someone who can challenge the conventional wisdom that houses need to be built upon a strong foundation and it takes a lot of time to build a house.

In conclusion:

So, when we are looking for potential ideas to develop a product, it would be a good idea to either create constraints around solving multiple challenges at the same time. This forces us to go beyond the usual, boring ideas and allows us to explore truly creative solutions. This also makes it that much more difficult for potential competitors to replicate your solution.

PS: Here is a hilarious video that shows how the birthing of ideas:

Birth of an Idea from The Upthink Lab on Vimeo.

PS: PS: Here is a great TED Talk by Steven Johnson about “Where good ideas come from

Necessity Isn’t Always the Mother of Invention

I just watched a TED video where Steven Johnson shares the story of how a flute made by a pre-historic man led to the creation of a tech revolution, that is the computer. You can watch the TED video here or below.

He goes on to argue that not all inventions  come from necessity and that there is a good possibility that people who have fun invariably invent new stuff that enables them to have fun, the kind that they want.

In all the Design Thinking workshops that I moderate, I have three rules for all participants:

  1. One conversation at a time
  2. 15 Minutes means 15 minutes
  3. Have fun.

I strongly believe that one’s learning cant be complete unless one is having fun learning the stuff. Even with serious topics, I have seen that people who enjoy the subject and have fun engaging with the topic are the one’s that master the subject.

What I didn’t realise at that time was that fun not only leads to more deeper understanding and is a much better predictor of learning, but could also lead to inventions.

This realisation raises a lot of questions from a learning perspective: Why are all learning institutions so serious? The teachers in school want their students to be serious and not play around or goof around, when we know that children learn a lot more by goofing around than by listening to a teacher talk about the very same subjects. Why do almost all executive education so serious, when we know that surprises are probably the biggest source of innovation and creativity and when having fun with a specific topic could easily lead to breakthrough innovations.

I was already convinced of the importance of having fun to have a much deeper learning experience. Now, I am convinced that having fun with a topic has the potential to lead us to innovations rather than formal, serious study (while this is as much a part of the process as well).

Are you convinced of this fact?

If not, I would recommend reading the book – Wonderland by Steven Johnson to explore & have a lot more insights on how this world has been transformed by a small section of people who decide to have fun and in the process create world changing technologies.