16 things to discover that are the basis of innovation

Innovation is not achieved with a scientific approach, it is not born at the table: the real innovators are difficult, complicated, provocative people who somehow inspire other people to realize their bold and radical visions in a given cultural context.

As George Bernard Shaw said: “The reasonable man adapts to the world. The unreasonable one insists on trying to adapt the world to himself. For this reason, progress depends on unreasonable people. ”

Meeting new needs of consumers still not satisfied by the market

Changes in technology and in the economic situation generate new needs in consumers, which the market is still unable to satisfy: this is where true innovators smell and exploit opportunities.

Intercorp, a large Peruvian cooperative company, operating in the retail sales and banking services sector, decides to focus and invest in the education of the new generations of Peruvians, identifying a shortcoming in this sense. The middle class is growing rapidly, but there are no good public schools and the private ones are few and too expensive and the government does not perceive this new need of the emerging class.

Intercorp feels it has a strong and precise mission: to make Peru become the best place in Latin America to raise a family. With the advice of the Californian design studio IDEO and the help of pedagogists from Harvard and Berkeley, Intercorp founded Innova Schools, a network of schools spread across the country, with a scalable and repeatable model. Modern buildings, use of cutting-edge technology and teaching methods to guarantee future leaders of the country an education worthy of the best international schools.

Give full powers to collaborators

Hiring smart and motivated people, giving them difficult and stimulating tasks, clarifying their role well and then leaving them free to carry out impossible projects on paper without any directives from above: this is a strategy that can bring great innovation.

An example of this winning approach is the construction of two additional floors under the Claridge’s hotel in London. The works had to be carried out respecting two conditions: the hotel had to remain open (and guests unaware of the work in progress) and the only access point for workers (from which to remove debris or bring equipment and concrete inside) it would have been a two-square-meter window on the back of the building.

Arup, an engineering and design company known to accept the greatest challenges in the construction sector (among the many projects carried out, the Sydney opera house and the Apple Park in Cupertino) is contacted. The characteristic of Arup is that it leaves collaborators free to choose the projects to work on, they have full autonomy and responsibility for their own decisions and for this reason they are also free to fail. The Arup team finds a brilliant solution in its simplicity: 15 miners are hired who dig by hand 1800 meters of duct and 400 meters of tunnel in just seventeen months, working day and night.

In this case, the solution was to use a technique from another sector: that of the mines.

Hire pirates and let them free

“It is better to hire pirates if this increases the efficiency of the fleet,” said Steve Jobs.

The United States Department of Defense has one need: to verify the security of its computer systems. He decides to do so by launching a challenge, Hack the Pentagon, which provides a reward for those who find any vulnerabilities in the system.

The result of this initiative is surprising: 1410 hackers participate who in 200 hours find 200 bugs. Later, the Defense Digital Service was created: a small team of technology experts working within the Department of Defense to guarantee digital security, with autonomy and discretion in deciding what to work on, but with the air coverage guaranteed by the department same. Engineers, designers, project managers with a pirate culture, as revealed by the plate on the office door located in the Pentagon,  Rebel Alliance .

Turning products into services

OP is a Finnish cooperative bank, one of the largest financial companies in the country, over a hundred years old and esteemed. Its customers are also owners, and the mission of this bank is to invest locally to “promote sustainable prosperity, the safety and well-being of its members”.

When new technologies began to change consumer behavior, OP’s leadership understood that it was time to review the business model, offering new digital services that could meet the company’s values. Four key areas have been identified in which to operate: health and well-being, mobility, home-related services and financial advice.

For example, an electric car rental service has been created that can be quickly booked with an app, and tools for online commerce of small merchants have been created, with software that facilitate the payment procedure, inventory management, and relations with customers. Op also invested € 125 million in the construction of five modern and highly efficient hospitals, the first of which opened in Helsinki in 2013.

Heywood Hill bookshop, historic London bookshop in the Mayfair district, has found a counterintuitive way to thrive in these times of change, not easy for the publishing world. He shifted the focus of the business: from selling books to recommending books. Taking advantage of the preparation and expertise of its booksellers, it provides a service for the creation of bespoke libraries and a subscription,  A Year in Books , thanks to which customers receive at home a number of books selected on the basis of their tastes and interests .

Behind these selections there is no algorithm, but people in the flesh who love to read and know what to recommend.

Making the world a better place by using technology

X, The Moonshot Factory, is the Alphabet division that deals with the most innovative projects that can make a difference in the world, creating new technologies to solve the great problems of humanity, in areas such as health and energy resources.

From the idea to its realization, a  moonshot , a launch on the moon itself, to project itself into reality and create a full-fledged business that has an impact on our lives. X was conceived in total autonomy from the headquarters, in a separate building and with its corporate culture. Among the projects that have come to life:  Loon , a hot air balloon capable of bringing the Internet to the most inaccessible areas cut off from the digital revolution, and  Wing , the drone that makes deliveries, reducing congestion of city traffic, pollution and offering the his intervention in emergencies.

A special feature of Moonshot Factory is the monkey-first approach  , i.e. the earlier the more difficult problems are faced. If you have to teach a monkey to recite Shakespeare on a pedestal, what do you do? First, think about training the monkey, not the pedestal, because that’s the hardest part.

Incubate tomorrow’s companies

An existing and consolidated business that addresses new consumer needs: IAC is a leading multi-billion dollar online dating company that has decided to finance Hatch Labs, a startup incubator to create Tinder, a dating app.

This meant risking leadership in the sector to support a more agile competitor and therefore benefited in innovation. IAC had the coldness to recognize what was working and support it, leaving the startup full freedom, giving material incentives for the successes achieved.
Another lucky example of how incubating startups can help an existing and consolidated business to meet new market needs is the Arsenal Innovation Lab. A laboratory that hosted 250 startups for 10 weeks, putting them in contact with more than 200 million of fans.

Only six were then selected to collaborate with the football team in order to bring new business ideas and change the company’s internal culture from outside.

Reorganize the future of a nation

Everything starts from a great vision: to become one of the best countries in the world by 2021 in various sectors, such as education, economy, security, hospitality, infrastructure and administrative services.

The United Arab Emirates have left the oil past behind to embrace technology and innovation, with the ambition to become a living hub, which makes prototypes, tests them and realizes the best ideas. They created a ministry for artificial intelligence, with the aim of improving and speeding up services to citizens, streamlining procedures and services, saving bureaucracy and paper.

They organized the Dubai Future Accelerators, a nine-week government-funded program to connect the best startups on the planet with state organizations to develop products and services, looking for original and effective solutions. They have been able to find their own uniqueness in all this: Dubai will never be Silicon Valley, but believes and invests heavily in new technologies.

Eliminate the boundaries of a state

Estonia aims to become the first borderless country in the world. Since 1991, the year of independence from the Soviet Union, he has used technology to redesign the administration of the country, using digital tools wherever possible to manage all aspects of public life.

Computers and internet connection in all schools, compulsory digital ID card since 2001, electronic health record since 2008, free wi-fi connection covering most of the inhabited areas; today the only administrative services that require the physical presence of citizens are marriages, divorces and real estate transactions.