Today, computing engages a user’s senses of sight and hearing through video and audio devices whose effects the user must integrate into his or her mind. Suppose that electronic media could offer users an active form of original information that would fully integrate sight and sound and add the sense of touch for the user experience. Suppose that the person using information could interact physically with it.
This is the concept of claytronics, which is also known as programmable matter. Through this medium, users would engage with information in realistic, 3-dimensional forms — represented in the immediacy of the user’s personal space.
Referees may soon have a new way of determining whether a football team has scored a touchdown or gotten a first down. Dr. Ricketts and his colleagues, in collaboration with Disney Research, have developed a system that can track a football in three-dimensional space using low-frequency magnetic fields.
Problem representation relates to the fact that how we see or conceptualize a problem defines how we try to solve it. Solving difficult, high-impact problems requires finding a representation of the problem that is solvable.
If you are not able to solve the problem that has been presented to you, the answer may be to simply change the problem to one that you can actually solve. In that way, problem representation can hold the key to valuable innovation.
Here’s a great example:
Most people who want to transport a gallon of water from one place to another look for a solution by hunting for a vessel like a jar or a bucket. Their representation of the problem is based on the belief that you need to contain the water in order to move it. But someone else may do the opposite and free the water by converting it to steam. Then they can move it through the air. Meanwhile, any person may solve the same problem by simply freezing the gallon the water and then carrying it as a block of ice without the need for a stream or a vessel.
So the potential solution all depends on the particular problem representation vision.
Invention vs. innovation — Many people mistake invention for innovation or believe that every invention is an innovation, but this is not exactly accurate. The key difference to understand is that invention is about the creation of something new, without regard for value.
You can come up with a new idea or product and even secure a patent for it, but that does not automatically mean that it has practical value. Creativity for the sake of doing something different does not guarantee success in the marketplace. If you want to innovate you have to combine inventiveness with a measurable and marketable value-add. Start with identifiable value. Then create an innovation to capture it.
Here’s a great example:
In the late 1800s, people used oil lamps as a means of portable light. They were messy, not very bright and dangerous. The invention of the electric lantern, or flashlight, was an innovation and an invention. The development of an LED flash was also an invention, but not an innovation. It did not create new value, but rather just a new form of the existing value.
If you lived somewhere where you made bad wine, would it have occurred to you to make champagne instead? Probably not. But that’s what innovation is: taking sour lemons and inventing lemonade.
Consider the real-life history of champagne. Champagne refers to the chalky soil that was very dry and barren. Most people don’t realize that Champagne is grown in regions that make poor wine. These regions had grapes that were acidic and perfect for making champagne. But luckily Dom Perignon found a way to add sweetness and flavor to the poor wine to give it a better taste – but that sweetness made extra bubbles!
Same thing in cognac. That’s why they were the perfect places for the liquors that bear their name.
I toured those regions but didn’t actually realize how innovative they were until I was at a popular champagne winery in New Mexico. I mentioned to someone working there how remarkable it was that they had a winery in the desert area when it wasn’t a great place to grow grapes. The person agreed with me and said that’s why they made champagne. ?
Only then did I realize that champagne and cognac were invented in those regions because they could NOT grow wine. Necessity really was the mother of invention.
The Champagne Principle is about discovering your special resources, your special backgrounds, and your special techniques. From there you gain a unique perspective on your unique assets to present a unique competitive advantage. Champagne shows that adversity can be nothing more than the gift wrap that surrounds a success.
Often times our unique capabilities, strengths or even disadvantages create an opportunity for differentiation and market leadership.