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.
The country allows foreign citizens to obtain digital residence, with which it is possible to open a business in Estonia and trade globally, to have access to local banking and administrative services, benefiting from a digitized and streamlined country in its procedures. Regardless of where a person is located, they want to offer people the opportunity to interact with intuitive administrations that understand their needs and offer practical and fast digital services.
For Estonia, the future is made by countries without borders, with global citizens free to choose the best place to open a business, take out health insurance, study or have good financial services.
The Autodesk Technology Center, in San Francisco, is a laboratory for research, development and exhibition of new technologies and production processes related to microfabrication. The spaces are designed to encourage innovation and help people imagine, design and build a better world.
Autodesk is a software company, both in the field of design and engineering, and in the field of entertainment and multimedia, which is investing in the most innovative technologies, such as generative design, virtual reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence . He decided to completely change his business model by exposing the points still unexplored by the company itself and then focusing precisely on these.
Much of their work is devoted to being visionaries.
Exploiting consumer data
The small shops in rural China are experiencing a technological revolution: it is Ule, an e-commerce managed by China Post and TOM group. Born to counter the decline of small retail stores, digitize sales and collect data from customers, Ule allows you to record purchases in a central database, linked to both the shopkeeper and the customer.
The customer is given a card that allows him to accumulate points for discounts or gifts. With the huge amount of data that is obtained in real time, you have precise information on what the country buys and wants. In addition, customers via smartphone can make payments, manage the postal account or request certain products from the shopkeeper and make them arrive by post even from distant areas of China.
By having access to secure, reliable and continuous data, it is possible to optimize the decision-making process, predict purchasing behavior and generate new revenue more easily.
Allowing brilliant people with different ideas to work together, even physically, leads to true innovation.
This is the case of the Francis Crick Institute, an important center for biomedical research and innovation, in the heart of London. Biochemists, neuroscientists, immunologists and other specialists work together, metaphorically and materially breaking the barriers between the various scientific disciplines. The building where the institute is located was designed and built to encourage people to interact, promoting connections between different sectors and dialogue between researchers, organizations and universities. Working groups of different subjects are brought together precisely to encourage interdisciplinary discussions.
An environment without doors and meeting rooms, in which it is very easy to come across colleagues, because innovation, the real one, occurs when brilliant minds of people with different ideas and thoughts collide and then mix.
Burning Man is an event held annually in August in the Nevada desert and represents the strength and power of casual encounters. A week in which 70,000 people come together to celebrate personal experimentation and expressive creativity. In a territory out of this world, without connections, a wooden puppet is burned in a large bonfire.
It is a moment of freedom, inclusion, autonomy, respecting the natural environment that hosts the event. Commercial writing, advertising, or money are not allowed. Few basic principles that everyone respects, but no rules, in a unique atmosphere where magic can truly happen. Burning Man plays a key role in the culture of the Bay Area startups, reinforcing the attitude of experimentation and a counter-current culture, which tends to break the established patterns.
Redefine the value of your company
Qantas, an Australian airline, is revolutionizing the concept of a modern airline. It is an example of a hybrid between large companies and startups. Being faced with financial problems not under his direct control (such as the rising cost of fuel and competition from low-cost companies), he created Qantas Loyalty Innovation Hub, with a staff of 150 collaborators who create apps and digital experiences.
Thanks to a very strong brand and a solid frequent flyer base , they have focused everything on redefining corporate value, directing it towards the health and well-being of its customers, at 360 degrees. The Qantas Loyalty Program allows customers to accumulate points to spend on the most varied products and services, rewarding them when they take care of their health (for example when taking a run or a walk with the dog).
Create a digital ecosystem
Xiaomi is not only a company that produces smartphones, but a real digital ecosystem, with 200 million users who use its operating system monthly.
It has entered 70 different markets and has changed the perception that the public has about Chinese tech companies. Create a few high-quality technological products to meet the need for an always connected lifestyle; smartphones are not his core business, they are the tool he uses to build a loyal customer base to which he will sell a whole series of technology-related products and services, which he will make produced by other companies and startups with which he collaborates and which he supports .
Startups remain independent, so they have the opportunity to prototype, iterate and adapt quickly to market changes. The company’s priority is to optimize the number of users, conquering them with exceptional products, increasing their involvement and monetizing with transactions.
Take advantage of emerging technologies, from smart cookware to blockchain telephony
The Internet can upset any sector with which it comes into contact, even the analog one of pot manufacturers.
Meyer Industries Limited, an aluminum cookware manufacturer, understands that its products cannot compete with the new smart food preparation equipment that is starting to appear on the market. Starting from this consideration, he creates and finances a startup with the aim of upsetting the traditional way of cooking. Starred engineers and chefs collaborate to create a guided kitchen system, which uses pots equipped with temperature sensors and recipes-rich apps.
Hestan Smart Cooking (the startup in question) has a well-defined mission: to put anyone in a position to prepare a meal worthy of a starred restaurant in a few minutes.
HTC, the historic manufacturer of phones, suffers a slow decline due to fierce competition in the smartphone sector, to the point where its survival is called into question. He decides to make a long-term investment, focusing on a technology that is still unknown to most consumers, but which he considers to be the future, and thus creates the first blockchain phone.
The development of this new tool is carried out with a lean and agile startup approach, by a dozen engineers, two product managers, two marketers and two social media experts. HTC wants to give users the opportunity to regain control over their personal data by exploiting the blockchain.
Change the business model and earn counterintuitively
Naspers is an internet multinational based in South Africa. As a company in the declining publishing sector, it has managed to diversify over time its already too old and creaky business model, becoming one of the world’s largest technology investors. Among other things, he founded a pay-TV, opened the first telephone company in Africa and in 2001 invested in the Chinese Tencent, a move that proved to be of extraordinary foresight.
Naspers not only predicted the needs of consumers even before they became real, but has also radically changed its internal policy, moving from government-supporting entities to independent companies.
Take advantage of a crisis and turn it into an opportunity
Welspun India, is a world leader in the production of household linen, exports almost all of its products, which are resold under other brands.
In 2016 she ended up under investigation because she was accused of selling counterfeit Egyptian cotton. Well, this company has been able to transform a big crisis into a splendid opportunity, taking advantage of an emergency situation to become a pioneer in the world of textile supply chain certification. He was able to find a commercial advantage, understanding that there were consumers who wanted transparency regarding the origin of the raw materials of the fabrics.
The strategy adopted: take full responsibility for what happened, reimburse all those who had purchased non-authentic Egyptian cotton and investigate the entire supply chain to understand what had happened. They created a real patent, Wel-Track, which allows the traceability of the products, starting from the farm to the store shelves.