Can You Innovate In A Vacuum?

Is it more innovative to focus on solving a particular problem or to just come up with fresh ideas and let the market choose whether or not those ideas have any practical application?

This is a question that a significant number of seasoned business leaders and business owners have been asking one another for decades. The truth is that it is a combination of both. In the end, especially with consumer products, the market eventually decides the usefulness, even dictating the product’s lifespan. It is a combination of both, as in the end, especially with consumer products; the market eventually decides the usefulness.

Those that think in this arena come up with some beautiful items, not always fresh ideas but products that merely do things differently than other products on the market. Innovation is frequently the result of specific difficulties, and success often results from overcoming hardship. Electric cars may fit into this category; the automobile itself is not a novel concept, and electric cars and vehicles have been around for quite some time. In the past, electric vehicles were sluggish and had a pitiful range, necessitating banks of hefty batteries, which in turn caused more challenges due to their weight. The innovation comes from finding ways to improve existing processes. The electric car of today, or even the hybrid automobile, can overcome the hurdles, and innovation has led to a significant improvement in performance across the board. The environmental problem has been partially met, and the next task is to produce vehicles in a manner that is less harmful to the environment.

Is there a consensus among consumers that they prefer electric cars? The verdict is still out on this one, but it is undeniable evidence that innovation can be traced back to the intentional pursuit of problem-solving. Yet, a lack of fuel and demand for cleaner air seems to be driving the electric car in the correct direction in terms of being accepted, and finally, the market will decide what the final consequence will be.

Introducing novel products into the market generates an equivalent quantity of innovation. Some people and certain businesses derive their strength from coming up with novel ideas and hope that they would be successful and the market will welcome them. When one considers the past roughly 20 years, we take many things for granted now that did not exist back then, and some of these things have evolved much further than we could ever have imagined. Inventions that can be described as “Eureka!” moments are the holy grail of the innovation industry. The consensus is that only about three percent of all new ideas and concepts will take off and reach millions of dollars in sales. This presents an unavoidable challenge, as failure typically leads to the success of someone else or something else; for example, compare Betamax and VHS.

When we think back just a few decades, we would never have imagined that we would shop on our mobile phones. In the past, one might call the butcher, baker, or even candlestick maker and send an errand boy to have anything fetched or delivered, but doing all of this and more via a phone? Drone technology has advanced to the point where receiving the goods you ordered in record time and with minimal effort is now possible. Often, new ways of doing things are little more than improvements on methods that have been around for a long time.

But getting back to the question posed at the beginning, which leads to more innovation: focusing on solving a particular issue or visualizing new possibilities? The truth is that we cannot have innovation without facing problems. In today’s world, innovation delivers something new virtually every day; for evidence, consider the software upgrades on your computer or mobile device. Some nerds are not afraid to ask, “what would happen if…” and there is where the actual innovation comes to the forefront. Some of these inventions come out in the update, an upgrade above previous updates. Previously, only people who could afford pricey technology could participate in video calls. Thanks to a simple update from Facebook or even Whatsapp, everyone can make video calls, making Skype obsolete quickly.

Henry Ford replaced the horse and cart, but someone had to design the internal combustion engine before him. Airbus made the A380, but the Wright brothers had to get off the ground. Creativity is what keeps our modern society ticking. There is nothing genuinely novel; everything is merely updated in some way. For example, the microwave revolutionized how we cooked; although we had always cooked, the microwave made the process significantly more efficient, creating an entirely new market for microwave meals. Everything has a beginning; sometimes, those beginnings are as simple as a dream or a wacky notion. Still, eventually, they give way to the innovations that lead to the improvements we enjoy today.

You can’t have one without the other because innovation is a never-ending cycle in which issues are solved and new ideas are conceived at some point along the process; yet, you can’t have one without the other.