Mastering The Adjacent Possible

10 Dec 2012|imor

Several months ago a team from Added Value was approached by a client to conduct an audit of their innovation process. The brief informed us they’ve tried a variety of approaches to innovation, but weren’t seeing promising results capable of gaining buy-in from their key global markets. A critical learning came when we realized that this technology-driven company placed overly narrow limitations on what constituted innovation and where they placed the anchor on what is required to build lasting competitive advantage. Real innovation – they assumed – needed significant investment in science and technology.

When it came down to prioritizing concepts, their discussions revolved around the time and costs required to apply pure science and technology to conceive new offer. They found themselves needing to justify significant investments, measuring the ROI of Opportunity X vs. Y, making a case to global brand heads of the value these investments would deliver in increased market share, and considering the applicability of resulting IP to other product lines in their portfolio. Sound familiar?

This scenario is not uncommon to many organizations we work with – especially ones with a legacy of tech superiority in their categories. It’s interesting to consider the assumptions we take for granted when thinking about innovation: It takes longer. It costs more. It’s harder to implement. It’s more risky.

Sure – if your invention requires labor- and time- intensive R&D, new distribution channels, or new IP (etc…), you’re likely to find yourself up against the traditional barriers we’ve come to associate with achieving breakthrough. But who says it has to play out that way? The Genius of the Tinkerer – a recent WSJ article presents the notion of the adjacent possible – that new-to-world ideas can consist entirely of ready-made parts and processes. Essentially by recombining in novel ways, you can create new products and services with outstanding outcomes.

A tasty case in point: Meet “the ice guy” at Aviary in this tantalizing 5-minute glimpse into their ice program.

And if that wasn’t impressive enough, here’s a more dramatized expression from The Master of The Adjacent Possible – my hero, MacGuyver.

A final note of caution: Don’t mistake this message as an appeal to ditch investment in pure science and technology in favor of more simple endeavors. Ultimately you clearly need both.

 Written by Ido Mor, Strategic Director.

Photo credits:  Lauren Manning.

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