The Innovation Intersection

Big and impactful innovations occur at the intersection and overlap of three seemingly different spaces – the Feasible, the Viable and the Desirable. If only one or two of these criterion are fulfilled, the ideas fizzle and die.

The first question to ask about a new product and idea is about feasibility: Can it actually work? Can it actually be built? That is often the domain of science and engineering. Novel, feasible ideas can be protected with patents. But, just because something is feasible does not make it a great innovation. There are two very important criteria that have to be met at the same time.

The second question to ask about a new product is about viability: Does it make business sense? Can it work financially? This class of questions is addressed by a Business Model or a Business Plan, once the idea is better developed. Sometimes, policy and legal questions also play a role here. But even now, a new product is not yet a great innovation on its own. There is one remaining space that is just as important, and it has very little to do with Engineering and Business.

The third question about a new product is about its desirability: Do people actually want this product? Do they like it? This class of questions relates to a whole host of disciplines such as Arts, Design and Psychology. If the new product is a small modification from what people already use, there is a well-established net of techniques to apply to answer these questions. Yet, some of the best products are the ones that nobody ever has seen. Automotive pioneer Henry Ford allegedly expressed this in his now-famous quote: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” To launch new ideas like Ford, one needs to understand humans at a whole different level! It’s not about market surveys then, it’s about understanding human needs and desires before one knows how to ask questions about them.

One of the major reasons Innovate Blue makes so much sense is because of that very reason: Michigan entrepreneurship is about developing big ideas that can only grow and be successful if each of the three criteria are fulfilled – the new product is feasible, viable and desirable. Because of its crosscutting character, Innovate Blue is the perfect framework for this challenge: We need the entire Michigan innovation community to make big things happen!

That’s when innovation truly happens!

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