Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Long Nose of Innovation

Innovation is an ongoing process. Bill Buxton likes to call it The Long Nose of Innovation. He describes the phenomenon as the bulk of innovation behind the latest "wow" moment (multi-touch on the iPhone, for example) is also low-amplitude and takes place over a long period—but well before the "new" idea has become generally known, much less reached the tipping point. He has given quite few examples in his post emphasizing that it is all about idea refinement and innovating around the existing technology. It is naive to throw away an idea just because it is old or not "new enough". Few other bloggers have also picked up the story and Techdirt makes an argument that innovation is not a burst of inspiration but merely a process.

Google search and Gmail are the examples that reinforces this phenomenon. When Google launched the search, people said "what, one more search engine?" Gmail was quite late in the email game, but it forced other web-based email providers to shell out extra storage space. Gmail gained significant market share based on the large storage feature and by providing better customer experience.

AJAX is also an example in this direction. The technology support in the browser for AJAX-based applications was available way before the AJAX term was coined or these applications started becoming popular. Gmail heavily used AJAX to innovate around better user experience . So, watch out, what you need is available right around the corner. What you thought was a silly or an old idea may not be silly anymore. IDEO has a "Tech Box" that is a centrally located lending library of innovation elements. Basically, it is a box that contains all kinds of materials, gadgets etc. Many visitors call it a magic box that contains many IDEO innovations, but for IDEO it is a mindset and a physical statement. IDEO team members look into this Tech Box for materials when they are designing or shall I say innovating the next product.

Finding user's right pain-point and provide better experience is a key to this long nose of innovation.

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