There is constant chatter these days about innovation – almost every business magazine you pick up, bookstore you walk through, and most articles about the economy are splattered with the i word. Innovation. Everyone is talking about it, most are looking for the magic formula to make it happen, and lots idolise the Steve Jobs’ of the world who is the poster boy for it. Yet, few actually seem to innovate.
Then there is a small group of folk who go about their small or big business, doing little things, seeing connections where others don’t, taking obscure things, situations, experiences and connecting the dots between them to create new ways of looking at the world, new opportunities, and sometimes even new products. Often the things they do look simple afterwards or, better put, we look at their connections and wonder why we didn’t think of that first. It’s not rocket science, but its still innovation.
A small landscaping company, Thornbusch Landscaping is interested in London and New York fashion weeks, not because they are the best dressed landscapers around, but because they have realised that fashion has a massive influence on the colours we like to see in our gardens. This years hot colours on the catwalk will be next year’s colours wanting to be see in our gardens. Dots connected that most of us, don’t see.
This week I read an article in the Jakarta Post about visa launching a mobile phone payment app called m-saku. This was bound to happen, but the path to this was paved in Africa, not Asia or Europe. It was paved by Vodafone and Safaricom launching m-pesa in Kenya and seeing it take off beyond their wildest dreams. Who would have thought that one of the biggest mobile phone revolutions and banking revolutions would come out of Africa? Not many, but someone connecting the dots between mobile phones and sending money home, something most of us would have never done, but now think it was an obvious solution and not rocket science.
Often I wonder if we seek innovation in the wrong places. What would happen if we seek it in the ordinary, the everyday-ness of life, and seek to connect (or “mash”) radically different things together. I tend to think its worth a try