HBR Pick: January-February 2019

#When Your Moon Shots Don’t Take Off

@Harvard Business Review, January-February 2019, Page 112-117

What: Four unconventional innovation approaches that can challenge our incremental thinking and lead to breakthrough innovations.

Why: Our creativity is constrained by biases that distort our perception and prevents us from seeing new possibilities.

But to achieve 10x thinking we have to break free of incrementalism and face down the fear of failure. You need to dream big.”

  • 10x thinking” is what Google calls ideas, that improve something by a factor of 10, rather than by 10 percent like others
  • Examples of breakthrough innovations are the moon landing, the Polaroid camera and Space X’s reusable space rockets.
  • Cognitive traps that reinforce local search: (a) availability bias – the tendency to substitute available data for representative data; (b) familiarity bias – the tendency to overvalue things we already know; and (c) confirmation bias – the tendency to think new information proves our existing beliefs

Science Fiction

Science fiction helps companies to visualise a new future for their businesses. For example the concept for the note-taking software Evernote comes from augmented intelligence in the novel Dune.

Questions: How can we revolutionise business A with technology like augmented reality, robotics and other technologies? How might Company B look like in 10 years?

Analogies

Use analogies from different domains to a business or a product, an analogy involving how not to do something or draw on lessons from failures. Uber and Airbnb are examples of companies that were copied by similar “sharing economy” businesses like the grocery delivery Instacart.

Questions: Can we adapt the business model of Company A (e.g. Uber) for a new business (e.g. grocery delivery)? How would Company B never do it?

First Principles Logic

Question the status quo of something by re-examining the foundational principles and then redesign it from ground up. SpaceX’s affordable and reusable rocket, for example emerged from a first principles approach. The rocket is build by using simple commercial-grade rather than space-grade components.

Exploring Adjacencies Using Exaptation

The key is to discover how something that evolved for one purpose can be adapted for completely different uses. For example Amazon Web Services (AWS) emerged from new uses of existing capabilities.

Questions: Why do we use something for one purpose and not another? How can we use existing capabilities for new uses? How can we solve the problems of existing customers?