“Who cares?” Basis of innovation

A nascent idea isn’t yet an invention.  A new invention might never become a product. An imagined product may never see light as a solution.

Solutions are important. They have the potential to change behaviours by altering the interactions between humans and products, or between humans in communities. Then, they become innovations.

To transform an idea into an innovation, begin by asking, “Who cares?”

Does someone, say a consumer, care enough to adopt a product, process or service that also implicitly changes behaviour? 

If drivers care enough to buy plug in electric cars rather than gasoline fuelled automobiles, the energy consumption of a community can change. This could be beneficial from a climate change perspective. 

When changes to a transit system are able to attract riders, it might become possible to reduce highway traffic and congestion, resulting in a potential implication for urban design and densification.

Successful innovations  impart a competitive edge to a company by bundling previously disparate services together.

Here, think of Steve Jobs, Apple and the iPhone. Consumers cared enough to buy the smartphone, which launched a social media and entertainment revolution. However, as Apple’s competitive edge increased, so did the competition as the solution attracted other players. 

Crowdfunding innovations allow entrepreneurs to move away from a small group of investors, such as banks and wealthy individuals, to a bigger pool of potential investors, namely the public. Thus, funding innovations becomes simpler.

Entrepreneurship is not restricted to companies. It also fosters passions. For instance, the most visible crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter, is presenting the Opera for Everybody project that seeks to live stream high quality opera productions. With 28 days to go, 178 backers have contributed €47,082 towards a €300,000 goal.

Innovation matters today, much more than straightforward invention. Hence, educators should release their grasp on the wrong end of the stick.  

Rather than simply focus on ideas and inventions or generate enthusiasm about patents and licenses, they should  train themselves and educate their students to answer a critical question before ideas are explored.

“Who cares?”


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