What’s the one thing, above all other things, that most people want, that’s ever more scarce and that we just don’t how much we really have?

 

Time.

 

Life seems to come down to one thing expressed two ways. You can either get more time or have better quality time. Consumer or Industrial, they are one and the same.

For all of our work Elemence, for all of our clients, it always comes down to this.

The beauty is the simplicity. I’ve written about big context. This is the big one.

We don’t know when we will die for the most part and for the time we are here, we certainly would all love to spend less time doing the things we hate, the things that detract from our lives, the things that keep us from joy, excitement, wonder, in whatever forms they take, be it family, children, our great loves, our passions, our desire to make a difference or to simply contemplate.

Consumers? Every ad, every commercial, every viral reach out centers upon how with this new thing, this new service, this new way, our lives time will be better or reduce or eliminate those awful distractions. P&G even tries to tell us they can help you “Enjoy the Go”. Really? Use Hotel.com and get the vacation of your dreams and that of your family’s. Shop at Kroger and be a part of their family. Drink coke and your life’s high soars like adrenaline on a roller coaster. Services save time, detergents clean faster, OpenTable will find you great food and a seat at the table faster too. Even the politicians – “imagine life – and your time – if I’m elected”.

Industrial? Make it faster, I need fewer lines, fewer plants. Makes your investors more money to enjoy their free time. Use computational chemistry, find that cure faster. Engage big data and the software to sift it and boom!, you find that magic market – faster and better. Faster planes, faster trips, more time for business, then there is more time for fun time.

A great, real life example? One of our adhesive product lines at one startup takes the time to make cabinet components from hours to a full 24 hours down to ten minutes, assembly from hours to minutes while eliminating on site finishing and mechanical fasteners. What’s exciting there? Most would think just that. It’s not.

We took that innovation several steps further through the entire spider web value chain realizing time and its quality dominate everything. We engaged the whole value chain, from suppliers to cabinet and furniture builders through to DIY’ers and even HGTV and Fine Woodworking. The real impact – we made woodworking far simpler. If no clamps or few were needed, almost anyone could assemble things. If there were no nails, parts could be prefinished. If the assembly was at full strength in minutes, a project could be done in minutes with no little screws, no screw drivers, no saws, no drills – just a rubber mallet. Well, we just exploded the potential DIY market for projects, for furniture – for entire classes of products never considered before. HGTV could show company’s products being assembled in real time within a 30-minute show or less. More viewers means more engagement, more ad revenue, more show sponsorship. Magazines get more subscribers. New retailers emerge – Amazon anyone? Cabinets delivered via Home Depot in a week, not two months plus? It goes on and on. Time in context – it really is everything.

Time’s impact can be that great big question. Travel twice as fast, the point is clear. Travel twice as fast, but maybe you will not get there alive. Quality just went way down. A great one – waiting for a five-hour window for the cable guy to show up. That ruins time in a dozen ways.

My point here? If we ask when we have a great idea what’s the real, honest, likely impact, how much better or faster is it really? Incremental investment for incremental improvement is one thing, but for real innovation, for the big innovations, we should set powerful filters, like time’s impact, to assess without a rigorous process, if its truly big. Really great innovations, the truly great ideas do not need a 40-point checklist or 100 focus groups and certainly never need big data. Air travel did not need it. Steve Job’s ideas for portable computing in the early 80’s did not need it. Online shopping did not need it. Double stuff Oreos…well, maybe people wanted to hedge that one…but then again that’s not a big innovation, just a tasty one.

So, if you are in the business of the big idea and find that you are doing all the latter, I bet it’s either not a big idea or you are wasting a ton of money – and people’s valuable time.

Big innovation is about finding those big questions and putting them in the context of the biggest needs, dominated by time, that make assessing and ranking big innovation opportunities far less complex than people make it out to be, unless you’re a consulting firm going for big billings. At Elemence we don’t do that. Never have. Never will.

 

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