Innovation Tautogram — A Simple and Powerful Innovation Tool

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The human vocabulary with millions of words is adequate to explain all of our expectations and experiences, even those which are imagined. Why not harness the power of language to discover new products and services? Author Shanta R Yapa shares the Innovation Tautogram technique, which can be used as an individual or a group exercise.

Humans around the world use millions of words in thousands of languages to explain and communicate their attitudes, emotions, anxiety, aspirations, etc. Experiences, irrespective of whether they are actual or desired, are already in the vocabulary of different languages but not available to us as actual products, features and processes. We have words to describe any unidentified flying object if seen suddenly, a creature not seen hitherto on the earth, an out of the world feeling a product can offer, a need felt, etc. Use this powerful brainstorming technique to mine your vocabulary database in a random way to bridge the gap between what is real and what is imagined.

Tendency to think rationally

Most of us spend many years learning things pertaining to our own disciplines. Therefore, our minds are trained and framed to think logically or rationally within those domains. Coming out of the box makes us feel uncomfortable. We are afraid, or simply not bothered to challenge the concepts, principles or theories we learn at the beginning of our professions.

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Customer Research and Consumer Delight

Unmet consumer needs are considered the holy grail of product and service innovation: a mystical, sacred entity with unlimited value and powers for those that know how to tap into it. It would seem that with present day digitalization and social media, it is easier to connect to users everywhere through online surveys, platforms, and data mining technology. Moving from a mass-producing economy to one based on individually tailored products suggests that the gap between consumer needs and producer response are closely aligned. Yet the mystique surrounding unmet user needs remains.

This article is part of the THNK VIEWS series. We bridge theory and practice on organizing imagination and innovation by extracting key implications and offering new insights to innovation practitioners. This article builds on Philippe Duverger’s research Variety is the Spice of Innovation: Mediating Factors in the Service Idea Generation Process.

Duverger’s key findings suggest that:

  • Consumers seeking variety are most likely to have the most innovative ideas, but will also switch services easily.
  • When combined with enough technical knowledge and resources, these users will be able to create the products and services that will satisfy their unmet needs.
  • To secure future business prosperity, greater attention should be given to finding new ways to appeal to these users, and find their unmet consumer needs.

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Getting From Ideas to Products

In a time when innovation and new product development are vital to remain competitive, large organizations are looking for ways to generate and execute new product ideas while mitigating risk. Increasingly, these companies seek to create a startup culture as a means to generate innovation.

Developing an efficient mechanism for getting products from the idea phase to initial prototype (and then to market) has significant benefits:

  • Quicker idea validation.
  • Cheaper and lower risk idea evaluation versus a full blown product launch .
  • Management has the opportunity to be involved in product evaluation, rather than being removed from the product development and validation process.

Rapid prototyping

This involves instituting processes to quickly convert ideas, even if they are only 25-50% complete, into live products that can be placed the hands of potential users or testers.Rapid prototyping has several requirements and attributes, including:

  • Robust and flexible product development expertise, as the ideas may be broad in nature.
  • Expedited development capabilities, often executed without a complete set of user requirements.

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Don’t Be Afraid of Upsetting People – A Negative Reaction is Better than no Reaction

South Park is a highly successful cartoon sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the Comedy Central TV network. The show was launched in 1997 and quickly became notorious for its rude language, minimalist characters and black, surreal satire. It was aimed at an adult audience and poked fun at a wide range of topical or taboo subjects. South Park has received many accolades, including five Primetime Emmy Awards. It is the third longest-running cartoon series in the U.S. behind The Simpsons and Arthur. Yet it was very nearly cancelled when initial tests showed that most people did not like it.

Parker and Stone met at a film class at the University of Colorado in 1992. They developed a number of humorous animated productions and came to the attention of a Comedy Central executive who commissioned a pilot episode for a proposed animated series. The pair spent three months creating the pilot episode which was called, ‘Cartman Gets an Anal Probe’. When it was shown to test audiences the results were dire. It provoked a strong reaction – mostly negative. The majority of viewers disliked it and it was particularly unpopular with women. However, a minority audience, mainly young men, really liked it.

The household goods giant Reckitt Benckiser developed a new cleaning product. Before launching the product they carried out consumer tests. Most consumers in the tests did not like the product but a minority (often men) really liked it.

Bland products upset no-one but delight no-one and they get lost in the welter of goods on offer. “

It is no good launching a ‘me too’ product which is similar to or even slightly better than most other products on the market. As Seth Godin stresses in his book, Purple Cow, it is more important to be different than to be better.

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