Don’t make me sit on the chair! Thoughts on Creativity World Forum day 1

When the creative minds of Europe unite, there’s bound to be magic in the air. Especially when Guy Kawasaki, Frans Johansson, Austin Kleon and many more impressive speakers are sharing their innovation stories. Find out in my thoughts below how each of them is dealing with the ‘innovation paradox’. Innovation paradox? Yes, we are encouraged to think BIG in innovation; to jump to the next curve and come up with radical and breakthrough new products and services. On the other hand, we can agree that all ideas are combinations of existing ideas. So how to be disruptive when uniqueness in itself can be questioned?

Jump to the next curve

Guy Kawasaki shared his strategy to develop new products and services in 11 rules. Although we live in a world of perpetual beta where products and services need continuous incremental improvement, revolutionary companies are jumping to the next curve. By understanding customer needs and the benefits they can provide, they can make products that are not 10% better, but 10 times better. Airbnb for example jumped the curve on how hospitality is presented in the hotel industry. To succeed in this, Kawasaki encourages us to make a mantra; define a reason to exist that is relevant to customers, creating value and adding a meaning. It’s a challenge for organisations to jump the curve when they think just about the product (Kodak, Nokia…), continuously keeping a finger on the pulse is crucial to stay relevant to customers.

Don’t worry be crappy

Do you know what benefits you should provide to be relevant to your customers? Do you have your big idea? Well unfortunately (or not!) the first version of your curve-jumping product might not be what you would expect, the specs will probably be low. But you’re getting out there, so don’t worry about being crappy. Frans Johansson observed that a lot of highly successful products like YouTube didn’t get it right from the start either (YouTube started as a video dating site). So developing the ‘smallest executable step’ and executing some component of the idea is the way to go. You’ll want to capture the real life experience of your customers when they are confronted with these executions. Another tip from Johansson: pay attention to surprise. Users might adopt your product in extraordinary ways, don’t fight this but embrace it. When Avon noticed that one of their beauty products was used by mothers as an insect repellent for their kids, they embraced it and extended their product line with more insect repellents.

Connect, embrace diversity and… STEAL

All ideas are combinations of existing ideas. This is not contradictory to breakthrough innovation, but a key driver. Architect Mick Pearce’s Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe exemplifies this. This mid-rise building has no conventional air-conditioning or heating, yet stays regulated year round with dramatically less energy consumption, using design methods inspired by the self-cooling mounds of African termites. Diversity drives innovation, so be connected and develop an interdisciplinary network. Artist Austin Kleon even stimulates us to steal from our inspirations. Connecting is about opening up to the outside world, not only to other disciplines but also to your customers. Customer Innovation was the topic of Marion Debruyne’s presentation. Users are very capable of knowing what they want and they’re already doing it. Reach out to them before they become your competitor.

Just do it!

Daan Roosegaarde closed the first day of the Creativity World Forum with great examples of how he brings this into practise. He integrated Glowing Lines into his Smart Highway – lines that charge up in daytime and glow for eight hours at night. This makes the landscape energy-efficient and poetic. Innovation beyond the product, creating an (emotional) experience.

And if the tips in this blog don’t do the trick, there’s always the ‘yes but’ chair by Studio Roosegaarde. Don’t be fooled by its common-place appearance. This chair has voice recognition and will give you a little shock when you say the words ‘yes but’ – 2 simple words that too often kill fresh ideas.
Yes but chair Studio Roosegaarde

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