Anyone who has ever done product management, product marketing or just tried to create their own product or services will understand the problem.
When people are used to doing something in a certain way, it is hard to change. It took almost 50 years for the Telephone to become accepted and used. When the PC first replaced the type writer, jokes of putting white-out on monitor screens abound.
Now, the problem is not just about people adapting to the product. Sometimes, in the product creation process, the creators themselves are stuck in a known paradigm. Then, it becomes a problem that grows in complexity. Why?
Within a fixed and known environment, there are rules and assumptions. Trying to do something different not only affects the thing that you are attempting to change, but will affect all the supporting elements surrounding it. It is hard to explain, but let me try to use this example of flying cars.
For many years, ever since the invention of aeroplanes, there have been dreams that one day, there will be a flying car. So, designers have been trying to create just such a product. Cars with capabilities of an aeroplane, to fly. Aeroplanes with the capability of cars, to be driven on roads. Some created a helicopter modification.
You see, these creators are now stuck in the following boxes: car, flying, aeroplanes, helicopter.
What happens next is predictable. Aviation rules need to be explored. Traffic jams are bad, but at least, we can wait it out. Aerial traffic jams would be disastrous, even if the flying cars could hover. In fact, now, we can have “traffic accidents” in all three dimensions. The entire concept is mired in a lot of other issues
This is what I was talking about when you try to innovate a product. By creating a product innovation, you turn the entire eco-system upside down. Nothing that supports the proper functioning of the system (road transportation) will work because a fundamental has been changed.
One method of breaking out of the box is to take a daring step and be “silly”. For example, all the innovation so far have been focused on the car – to make it fly. Frankly, that is no longer a challenge. Personal flying is already possible. Small tiny personal planes. But they do not “replace” the car in the way envisioned. So, to get out of the box, let us imagine that we now innovate… the road.
How about that? Change the concept of “air traffic lanes” and make them literal?
My simple take: road with electro-magnetic fields, cars with corresponding capbilities and you get floating cars. Multi-tier the roads, adapt the concepts of on-ramp and off-ramps and you can have a much more complex “road” system. Car parks of course will have to adop similar changes.
Of course, this is a silly idea as it will entail billions of dollars. But it is possible.
My point is, sometimes, solutions outside the box are dismissed because people take one look at it and say:
1. That is silly
2. That looks like a railroad (or whatever is equivalent in each scenario)
3. That is not as good a solution
But mostly, we are trapped in our own little boxes. So, want to be the next Alex Bell, Bill Gates or the Wright Brothers… then dare to be “silly”.
Have a fantastic new year in 2009!
How Stuff Works