Frontloading for Innovation

There is a widely spread conviction in innovation processes:

companies seek needs in order to satisfy them with a new product or service. The creativity and efficiency of this approach is not only very limited, but most importantly it hardly yields any noteworthy innovations – most of the time it only brings incremental improvements. If you ask people what they want, they often want exactly what they already have. Maybe a little faster, a little cheaper, a little easier and so on.

If you look at the big, revolutionary innovations of the past 20 years – the internet, mobile phones, search engines, GPS, iPhone, Facebook, Cloud Computing etc. – you will notice: they are not only improvements of existing products or services. They create a whole new category (W. Chan Kim und Renée Mauborgne call them “Blue Oceans”) or, to put it differently, they create needs that did not exist before.

Nobody expressed a need for a copy before there was a copy machine.
Nobody talked about GPS in a car before the technology had been invented.
Nobody had the need to track a friend’s life in real time until there was Facebook.

And very few felt a need for accessing data from anywhere anytime before cloud computing.

Where do these revolutionary ideas come from? They often existed for quite some time, already imagined but never invented. Science Fiction movies and novels often show us the future which is only a few years ahead. Therefore companies should use those future scenarios strategically. Because: ,”The future is already here – it’s just unevenly distributed” (William Gibson).