Are you Creating Solutions in Search of a Problem?

Inventors and scientists are often so enamoured by their technological breakthroughs that there is a tendency to force-fit the idea in the form of a solution without putting in the requisite effort to validate its relevancy to the problem. The thinking is, “It is such a cool technology, we must apply it somewhere!”

This is a classic technologist’s dilemma. They say, ‘When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’ There are a few technologies such as analytics and blockchain that are very broad and might find application across industries and situations. However, even there, and in most other cases, it makes sense to lead from the business case rather than from the technology.

The primary difference between a technologist and an innovator is that while a technologist is focused on a solution, an innovator is focused on the problem. It is this focus on the problem, the ‘outside-in’ approach, that is critical for a successful innovation program.

Technology is usually one of the many components that make a successful innovation. Often, it is a small part of the overall effort and aspects like business model, processes, communication, supply chain, marketing, talent procurement can be much harder to achieve. That is why starting with technology is not a great idea.

Secondly, even when showcasing the solution, the value of technology-led innovation is not visible to business owners unless it is put in the business context and is articulated as such. An outside-in perspective that works by showcasing innovation from a business angle is key. This is particularly important as the business leader’s approval is critical before a lab innovation can be scaled up. It is the business that usually pays for any large-scale deployment. It is therefore critical for any successful innovation program to approach it with an outside-in business viewpoint.