When looking at major drivers of innovation, corporate leaders usually pay attention to shifts in technology but often forget about other, less obvious areas. One such example is the speed at which cultural norms are shifting around the world. In our rapidly connecting world, a small shift of behavior in one region, or within one sub-demographic, can quickly spread and get adopted by a much wider group of people.
This creates opportunities to innovate-not necessarily with a breakthrough technology, but because something has changed to make it possible for people to do things they would never have considered before.
Although Tinder does not represent a major breakthrough in technology, it does capitalize on a major shift in Western cultural norms regarding dating behavior and how people view relationships. AirBnB similarly does not represent a major tech innovation, but it did disrupt the hotel industry by encouraging a major attitude shift in many people - their openness to having complete strangers stay in their homes.
Cultural shifts don’t just happen to consumers, but occur inside companies as well. Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for employees to believe that they could influence their company’s technology choices. Today, office workers everywhere are learning about new apps and giving their employers recommendations such as Slack, Dropbox or Prezi.
Do you think your teams can innovate sitting at their desks? Right now they probably have to find inspiration elsewhere. Encourage them to look around, and avoid venturing to familiar places, tried-and-tested norms or established consumer expectations. Lingering on this path will compel them to miss the real chance to challenge and deliver game-changing solutions that shift customer perspectives and meet needs in uniquely different ways.
DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAMS CAN INNOVATE SITTING AT THEIR DESKS? RIGHT NOW THEY PROBABLY HAVE TO FIND INSPIRATION ELSEWHERE.
Cross-domain and cross-culture market research will hone the team’s ability to ask different questions, combine disparate elements, find novel innovation patterns and then test concepts through potential consumer validation techniques. Paying attention to areas where there are shifts in consumer behavior across cultures brings about diffusion of ideas that helps innovators imagine possibilities.
Creating radical products demands that companies set goals framing the way they want to change the world, and for consumers to enhance their utility. Open innovation programs and crowdsourcing are powerful tools to gauge consumer insights and cultural shifts.
So jump-start your thinking by sketching analogies and shifting approaches between contexts, beyond your own industry, sector, discipline, culture or norm.
We have often had it tough visualizing how a new couch will look in our living room or if that beautiful lamp shade will go with the bedroom decor. Now we have a smartphone that can see more than we can. Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro, a smartphone with an oversized screen and an inbuilt Vision technology called Tango, uses augmented reality and virtual reality to replicate a setting with an entirely digital version. It uses motion-tracking cameras, sensors and sophisticated software, to not only create 3D maps of indoor spaces, but also re-orient the map based on where the device is in those places. The device is equipped with depth perception aided by a sensor that uses infrared light to gauge distance by how light is shaped by objects in a room.
The technology has the ability to recognize the location of the windows, doors and objects, even as the smartphone is moved to different positions in a room. It can identify space similar to how humans do, and help us visualize possibilities beyond our imaginations.
Video games treating cancer patients sounds unimaginable, but Re-Mission 2 by Hopelabs, a California-based nonprofit, developed a game through the collaborative effort of researchers, medical specialists and game developers to fight cancer in inflicted children. With an approach to drive encouraging health results by combining behavioral science with human-centered design and strategic partnerships, Hopelabs used digital technology to improve the lives of young people.
The game was developed to educate kids about cancer and the treatments needed to recuperate. In the game, players enter the body as tiny robots to fight the disease at the cellular level. To make it interesting and engaging, chemotherapy, antibiotics, and the body’s immune cells have been turned into weapons and super powers to be used by players to explore the cancer cells away-parallel to real-world methods to treat cancer. Through the game, patients learn about what is happening inside their bodies, gain a sense of power and control over their illness, and become more engaged in their treatment.
The players emerge healthier, feeling powerful enough to fight their disease. The game, thus, helps the kids develop resilience in the face of adversity.
Hon Weng Chong, Andrew Lin, Kim Ramchen and Masha Salehi, students from the Melbourne Medical School, have created a life-saving medical device-a digital stethoscope that can diagnose children and save lives in remote areas where healthcare services are sparse. The digital stethoscope is a simple portable device that can be paired with a smartphone and Cloud. The students have used a conventional stethoscope with a microphone embedded into it and connecting it to a smartphone's microphone inline connector.
The devices record the biometrics using a stethoscope and non-contact infrared thermometer, both of which connect to a mobile device. Measurements recorded are displayed on the CliniCloud app, where the data can be analyzed and sent directly to a health-care provider. A treatment plan is then delivered. While the prototype now requires Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity, the team is working on it to ensure it also functions offline.
Customers have long expressed dissatisfaction over lengthy lines and queues during check-out at retail stores, which tends to trickle down on to the overall shopping experience. An e-commerce start-up, QueueHop, hopes to eliminate line-ups when shopping with smart anti-theft measures and a self-service checkout system. QueueHop has an objective to "revolutionize your retail shopping experience" with radio-frequency identification (RFID) security tags, QR code scanning and on-the-go checkout. Using their smartphones, customers will be able to use QueueHop to check themselves out by locating the RFID apparel tags and scanning their QR code. The application will also allow users to browse the wares of participating shops and receive personalized suggestions and discounts. The app is not yet available, but is coming soon according to QueueHop's website.
Their self-service checkout method combines the convenience and speed of online shopping with the experience of brick and mortar stores. QueueHop has developed an app that assures speedy self-service checkouts with smart anti-theft measures. This not just assures an efficient buying process, but also reduces abandonment of carts and prompts impulsive purchases based on shopping behaviors.
This collaborative effort between Phillips and Green Sense Farms promises a consistent supply of fresh food to consumers all year round, and will also reduce carbon emissions generated by long-haul food transportation. Green Sense Farms, a 30,000-square foot warehouse in a centrally located industrial park-large enough to eventually serve a 5-state Midwestern region-has built two climate-controlled grow rooms, each equipped with seven 12 meter-tall grow towers and 7,000 Philips GreenPower LED production modules. The cool-burning lights require less climate control and use less energy, so they can be placed closer to the plants, allowing for more levels of stacking greenery. This technology has huge potential for cost savings and increase in production for farms. This sustainable method of farming also uses a fraction of the conventional footprint to produce high volumes of quality greens year-round while also conserving energy and water.