Some days ago, I stumbled across an excerpt from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened and known as “Alice in Wonderland”), an 1865 novel by Lewis Carroll. The following dialogue caught my eye:

Alice asked the Cat: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to”, said the Cat.
Alice continued: “I don’t much care where.”
“Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”, answered the Cat.
“… so long as I get somewhere …”, murmured Alice.
The Cheshire Cat: “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

Lewis Carroll, 1865 in Alice in Wonderland

Walking the Innovation Wonderland

I wondered: How can we apply this to innovation? According to J. A. Schumpeter, innovation is “the doing of new things or the doing of things that are already done, in a new way.” But there’s more. A newer formula by M. Kägi states that INNOVATION = INVENTION + REALIZATION + CUSTOMER VALUE + SUCCESS.

But how do you know there will be success? Long story short: You have to figure that out! Innovations can create opportunities, but also come with a high amount of risks (e.g. missing the market, wrong time, too late, not accepted from the market, run out of money…). There’s a lot of uncertainty here. New and promising for you doesn’t simply mean that you’re going for gold; it could be seen worse than existing options or not as (additionally) valuable at all. That’s why even big successful companies cannot always succeed in future (e.g. Kodak) – they have to adapt. Using existing technology and maintaining market leadership through incremental improvements… And suddenly you will get overtaken by some fancy new technology player you 3 months ago you said that their solution is “lousy”. The wonderful scenic place you have built in the past fades away. So… Is there a dilemma in Wonderland?

Lets try to link the dialogue above to innovation:

  • How do you “get there” when you don’t know where “there” is? You cannot decide/plan a route to the destination when you don’t know where to head at. You need a north star in order to focus your actions. In addition, guard rails are needed, especially in the innovation process. The playground must be defined.
  • Even if you don’t know where exactly to go (goals can shift -> moving targets), you should go forward. This requires courage. “If you don’t move forward, sooner or later you begin to move backward.” (Mikhail Gorbachev in Harvard Magazine)
  • “If you only walk long enough.” means that you need endurance. As Thomas Edison said: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Doing innovation is not a 100m run; it’s more like an adventurous marathon.

If Alice in 2021 had an idea, perhaps the Cheshire Cat would respond in a different way. So a newer dialogue between Alice and the Cat would probably be like this:

Alice in Innovationland (Wonderland 2.0)

“I have an awesome idea ’bout something new.”, said Alice to the Cat. “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”, she asked.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to”, said the Cat.
“I don’t care, as it’s an outstanding idea on its own!”, Alice replied.
The Cheshire Cat said: “Well, you should consider what problem you want to solve and what motivation you have when it comes to solving it. Put your “Plan A” on paper and think about where the most critical assumptions are hidden. These are the first things you should check.”
“But what skills do I need for that?”, Alice wondered.
The Cat said: “It’s all about being able to move fast, and listening to customers.” (*)
“Furthermore…”, the Cat added, “you should test the hypotheses through experiments/prototypes and bring an MVP to market. While doing so, you develop the underlying business model step-by-step, starting from the initial “Plan A”.
“Sounds reasonable”, Alice murmured, “what is this approach called?”
Lean Innovation“, said the Cat, and added: “See… No fairytale at all 😀”

Flavio De Roni, 2021, inspiique.ch
Alice in Innovationland, by Flavio De Roni (inspiique.ch)

  Alice in Innovationland (2.9 MiB, 27 hits)

Your thoughts?

Source

  • (*) quote by Mark Randall, founder of Adobe Kickbox
  • Cat: Photo by Raphael Renter on Unsplash
  • Woman between trees and night sky (for the quotation): Photo by Yash Raut on Unsplash
  • Dialogue by Lewis Carroll in “Alice in Wonderland”

Recommended Reading

  • Borbély, E. (2008). J. A. Schumpeter und die Innovationsforschung. MEB 2008 – 6th International Conference on Management, Enterprise and Benchmarking, 1997, 401–410
  • Christensen, C. M. (2016). The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.
  • De Roni, F. (2020). Innovation Y & Z: Ein auf Generation Y und Z ausgerichteter Innovationsprozess für Softwarehersteller. HWZ.
  • IDEO. (o. J.). Design Thinking Defined. Abgerufen 4. April 2020, von https://designthinking.ideo.com/
  • Kägi, M. (2017). Kompass Innovationsmanagement. buch & netz.
  • Maurya, A. (2012). Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan that Works (2. Aufl.). O’Reilly.
  • Maurya, A. (2017). What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Abgerufen 13. April 2020, von https://blog.leanstack.com/minimum-viable-product-mvp-7e280b0b9418
  • Ries, E. (2013). LEAN STARTUP: Schnell, risikolos und erfolgreich Unternehmen gründen (2. Aufl.). München: Redline.

Flavio

Master in Business Innovation. B.Sc. Business Engineering|Innovation. Blogger. Traveller. Product Owner. Technology Strategy Manager. #ginvibes. Knight of Taste. Sports enthusiast. Foodie. Creative Kid. #iger. The guy behind inspiique.

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