Techniques Of Innovation

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Art is created through an internal dialogue we have with ourselves and results in a form that expresses who we are or want to be. It results in intrinsic values – the value of the thing itself without concern for the value or usefulness the external world places on it.

Innovation is fueled by a compulsion to change the world – for profit or to achieve a social impact.   It is the dialogue the maker/creator/inventor has with the external world. Innovators need an audience and start working with an audience in mind. Artists are happy to find an audience but that’s not the primary reason they create.

This is part one of seven of the Corzo Center's Black Book. Read more at corzocenter.uarts.edu/blog.

Techniques of Innovation

The good thing about techniques is that they can be employed rather mechanically and that’s good when one is anxious about “starting.”  Learn the technique and begin. As you begin you’ll become aware of some possibilities.

Use Constraints.  Constraints simplify a problem by limiting the number of elements you need to take into account.  Materials, money, space, time, etc.

Constraints not only simplify a problem, they enhance our ability to be imaginative – to bring together possible connections that would not be apparent in a larger, more complex system.

Imagine what you can do with less and you’ll see what you could do with more.  The good news is that by starting with limits, you’re free to throw away what doesn’t work because you’ve not invested much time or money…or, for that matter, much of your ego.

Make Metaphors.  There’s probably no better tool and technique.  Metaphors require that you connect things that are not normally connected, and by doing that you find new elements in both.  They can serve as a form of focus as well as a way of creating something new.

An example:  “A ship plows the water.”   A ship is like a plow and the water is the field. By linking dissimilar elements like this together (ship + plow), the metaphor requires that we rethink a set of relationships.  As we do we find new ways to think about the commonplace and what we take for granted.

Connect Opposites.  A form of metaphor making, connecting opposites reveals important elements in each.  Love and Hate, White and Black, Hot and Cold. Each defines and extends the other.

Change the Rules; Make New Rules.  To change the rules, you need to know what the rules are.  Making a new rule redefines a problem or an institution.

AirBnB broke the rule that travelers wanted a destination hotel to provide service and instead focused on price, access, personal service, and location. Home Appetit, HelloFresh, GrubHub and others broke the rule that, if we wanted a chef-cooked dinner, we’d need to eat out: instead they offered a chef-designed dinner that we could eat at home. General Nathanael Greene used a form of guerilla warfare (hit and run) that broke from the practice of troops lined up in formation facing each other, a tactic that surprised the British and set the stage for the American success at Yorktown.

Redefine “value.   Everything has a value to someone.  If the value is material and economic, changing the value to a social or moral value (or vice versa) will change what we think of the product or service.

At the beginning (1976), Apple was a technology company and sold its computer as an efficient way to do calculations (VisiCalc). By 1984 Apple had changed how it described itself.  In its famous ad, Apple’s Mac Computer was being sold as a form of personal liberation. In 2007, Apple Computer changed its name to Apple, changed its description once again and morphed into an “entertainment company.”  

In each of these, Apple changed its description of itself – from efficient tool to people’s machine to a creative life style to a form of entertainment – emphasizing a new value in order to broaden its market.  Efficiency to autonomy to consumption and pleasure.

Part two will continue with Principles of Innovation.