Generating technology ideas for systematically ferreting out value from the market has been a big challenge. Often, we find success as the magical outcome of the heroic act of a creative genius. However, there are some patterns, helping us in systematically generating ideas. One of those patterns has been the evolution of ideas of offering an assistive role to technology cores of products and processes to creative destruction. Hence, the pattern of growth of Innovation from assistive to creative destruction appears to be an important reference line for idea management.
Systematically generating ideas has been a big challenge for ferreting out value from the market. Particularly, it has been a daunting challenge to come up with ideas for extracting value from creative destruction opportunities. Thus, instead of generating a flow of random ideas, we should focus on some underlying patterns to zoom in. One of the patterns has been that technologies keep changing roles from providing assistance to taking over core roles. The detection of such growth patterns from offering assistance to creative destruction could be of immense help in systematically generating ideas.
Every product or work process has one or more technology cores. For example, the automobile has two technology cores. The first one is the propulsion, and the other one is the human driver. On the other hand, work processes of accounting or diagnosing diseases has one major technology core—the cognitive role of human. Often the innovation journey begins in providing assistance to these technology cores. Over time, that role grows from assistive to creative destruction of the technology cores. Such a pattern appears to be repetitive. Focusing on such a pattern helps us systematically generate ideas—even for pursuing creative destruction or Disruptive innovation. Here are a few examples.
Hybrid to plug-in electric—a journey from assistive to creative destruction
The internal combustion engine has been the core propulsion technology for the automobile for more than 100 years. However, there has been the role of an electric battery. The role started from providing electric sparks for ignition and powering headlights. The role of the battery kept incrementally growing from powering the radio to the steering wheel.
In the course of time, the electric battery started taking over the roles of occasionally providing propulsion. For example, the electric motor is more efficient at producing torque or turning power, and the combustion engine (ICE) is better for maintaining high speed. An optimum combination of them offers higher fuel efficiency and less emission, giving birth to a hybrid electric vehicle. However, still, the role of the battery is to play an assistive role to the ICE.
The continued performance improvement of battery in taking over the growing assistive role has reached a situation when taking over ICE’s whole role appears to be feasible. Hence, initiatives started unfolding, at the dawn of the 21st century, to have a full electric vehicle (EV). Thus, EV is not an out-of-the-box idea. We did not need a serious brainstorming session among creative minds and waited for a sudden EV spark. Moreover, such brainstorming sessions generate a Flow of Ideas, having many irrelevant ones. How to filter out the most relevant one from the rest itself is a challenge. Therefore, we should look for a pattern as a reference for systematically generating ideas.
Mobile phone’s role from assistive to creative destruction to landline
In the 1980s, mobile phones emerged for offering an assistive role in telecommunication, having wireline technology core. Although landline phones were playing a vital role, this mode of communication was not suitable when we were not at home or the office. Therefore, people started adopting mobile phones to serve unmet requirements. Particularly, people started using it while in the car. Hence, its nickname was a car phone. However, innovators kept adding features to mobile phones for taking over other assistive roles. One of them was the storage of easily searchable frequently called numbers. Over time, mobile phone handsets kept becoming smaller and also less costly. Further, innovators kept adding some very useful features such as calendar, e-mail, camera, and many more. Hence, the mobile phone has grown as creative destruction to the land phone.
From cognitive assistance to taking over the whole human role
From driving an automobile to performing office tasks, digital technologies have been a great help. Innovations around digital technologies are incrementally taking over tasks for reducing our cognitive role. In the 1970s, it emerged in a very humble manner. We started getting used to using a calculator to reduce cognitive pressure and increase computing speed, even for adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying a few numbers.
To extract more value from reducing the cognitive role and increasing productivity, innovators started to come up with a virtually endless flow of incremental digital features. This trend has reached a situation when the replacement of humans’ whole role, in performing tasks demanding cognitive role, has become a possibility. As a result, an array of tasks, starting from accounting to health status checking, has become the target to take over by digital innovations.
Therefore, the idea of artificial intelligence or having software for diagnosing the disease is not a Breakthrough one. We do not need the heroic power of creative genius to come up with such ideas. Instead, we should look into the pattern of the incremental growth of the assistive role of technology innovation. Instead of waiting for a big spark, we should rather systematically follow such patterns in figuring out the next idea to move forward in our innovation race.
Robot from dully, dangerous, and dirty assistive to creative destruction to the human role
In the 1960s, robots started emerging to take over dull, dirty, and dangerous (3D) tasks. It has been a great assistance to human workers in factories. We were happy as robots were relieving us from those tasks in our jobs, which had 3D characteristics. Initially, we offered those 3D jobs which were highly repetitive in a structured environment. However, innovators took the opportunity to add and improve features so that robots could perform additional 3D tasks that demanded some flexibility. Over time, robots started progressing incrementally with sensors, software to perceive the situation by processing sensor data and making small decisions by themselves. Such an incremental progression of offering assistive roles has reached a state when robots are eligible to take over the core production roles from humans.
Therefore, the progression of robots from offering an assistive role to making human workers redundant is not a sudden creative outburst. Instead, we observe a pattern. Detecting such patterns and taking advantage of it by generating additional ideas appears to be far more systematic than getting into a brainstorming session to entertain all kinds of ideas.
Online transaction to a cashless society
In completing transactions, cash is the technology core. A cashless society sounds to be an out-of-the-box idea. However, the journey started in the early part of the 20th century. In the 1960s, credit cards started gaining popularity as a replacement for cash. For certain transactions, it was very convenient. Interestingly, mobile financial services took the idea of numbers as the replacement of cash to developing countries’ grassroots levels. As numbers are more convenient to transfer, innovators started adding features to use them to replace cash in performing transactions.
Particularly, they became very handy for making small payments, like paying telephone bills—giving birth to the digital wallet concept. Even rural people or migrant day laborers in Bangladesh, India, and many other countries find mobile digital wallets a convenient way to receive money and make payments. This assistive role of addressing unmet demand pockets has been progressing to reach a situation when cash becomes irrelevant in society.
Of course, a cashless society would be a major transformation; it’s creative destruction in need. However, it’s not an out-of-the-box idea. It did not come out all of a sudden from a severe brainstorming session. Instead, it has been the outgrowth of offering assistance to creative destruction.
Ideas for systematically ferreting out value
These examples refer to some major waves of creative destruction. Some of them will have major transformational effects. For example, the uprising of robots to make factories free from humans is already raising serious concern about the future of work. Similarly, a cashless society is asking questions about the future of banks. On the other hand, the growth of electric vehicles is posing a threat to oil economies. However, none of these ideas are sudden creative sparks. They are not out of the box either. Instead, they are the outcome of the growth of technology ideas’ role from offering assistance to creative destruction.
Hence, we should systematically look for ideas for making an entry in providing an assistive role. We should keep adding ideas for growing that assistive role. Over time, those assistive roles may grow, in certain cases, as creative destruction—the big bang. However, such a transition may have an intermediary phase, where the former technology core takes an assistive role–before the complete phase-out. Hence, this approach could also be a smart innovation or competition strategy for systematically unfolding technology ideas from offering assistance to creative destruction to technology cores of products and processes.