Updated: Jan 18, 2020
There has always been an issue with the explanations of innovations. I believe, everybody knows examples of innovations where it became obvious within moments what a specific product or service is about, what problems it solves, and why it even might be some kind of revolution. In other cases it appeared to be more complicated. The novelty came with huge amount of explanations typically transported by sophisticated marketing campaigns or business development activities.
As we all are consumers, we potentially get in contact with a broad range of different well-known and new products and services. If you add the various offers and innovations from our professional life it gets even more complicated. We can imagine sheer endless fields where innovation can take place. In fact, many of these areas are very complex and require great expertise from people working there. Despite this, we see from time to time innovations with outstanding clarity. Almost everybody seems to understand these particular innovations without further explanations.
When people understand an innovation within a fraction of a second or at least a few seconds, I call it “innovation at first sight”. To define it more specifically it should happen within a single-digit number of seconds (less than 10 seconds). The phrase “innovation at first sight” came to my mind suddenly while listening to the song “Love at first sight” by Australian superstar Kylie Minogue.
Of course, we have to take into account what the relationship of people to an innovation is. Innovations can look simple and easy to use on their surface but can for instants be extremely complex from a technological point of view at the same time.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains in his research about creativity that a „field of experts“ in a particular area judges whether something is to be considered as an innovation.
In consumer markets the executives of retail companies, social media influencers, marketing specialists, the consumers, and various players and organisations function in the roles as experts. They make their judgement and decisions. Of course, all these people have particular interests and perspectives while they try to understand a novel product or service presented to them.
Google Search is an innovation that has never needed much explanation if any at all. Despite the sophisticated and complex technology powering this search engine, it has always been easy to understand quickly its basic idea and how it can be used.
In his famous presentation, Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone as a combination of three existing devices. It took just seconds to understand what this new smartphone could be about, if you knew the existing devices or applications. Else you probably had no chance to understand it immediately and you had to rely on further information provided during the product presentation.
I believe many people would agree that this is obviously a challenge of effective communication. It is about getting the important messages to the right groups of people.
Many people know about their needs, wishes, challenges and problems in both private and professional life. If a novelty occurs that might fulfil relevant needs and wishes or solve challenges and problems, it will probably get their attention. They will link possible solutions with their problems.
Additionally life and business seems to have accelerated in genreal. More and more businesses increase their flexibility, and deliver on short notice or just-in-time. With 3D printing technology it has become possible to manufacture various products on demand close to the place where it is needed. Consumers get used to receive almost everything as same-day instead of overnight-delivery. There seems to be a tendency to get everything now. Most of us have experienced or observed the impatience that occurs when a mobile network does not reply for a couple of seconds. Therefore I would not expect that people are willing to spend much time for understanding an innovation in general.
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." is a famous statement by Albert Einstein.
In this sense innovators might ask themselves why their innovation is difficult to explain. Blaming an audience for not understanding an innovation is definitely not recommended.
I am convinced that it is worth to think about the innovation itself. If the people you are addressing with your innovation do not understand it within a fraction of a second or at least a few seconds it is no „innovation at first sight“. Putting the subject of communications aside for a minute: What does this mean for your innovation?
Is the problem really considered as relevant by the people addressed?
What does it tell you about your innovation if it needs huge explanations?
What does it mean when even experts just don’t get it?
There is no doubt that the design of user interfaces is always important but think beyond it. Consider the whole innovation and not just the interfaces. Use the following questions as a starting point:
Does the entire design of your product or service, including structures, processes, interfaces, functions, characteristics etc. support the principle of „innovation ar first sight“?
Is the basic idea of the innovation so clear that it can be grasped quickly?
Is the innovation useful without doubt and can its benefit be understood instantly?
Does the entire design of the innovation support fast understanding?
Does the solution have the optimum scope?
Does it contain the best possible functions and characteristics?
How mature is this solution?
Depending on the particular type of innovation further questions could occur that go in a similar direction. The development should be focused on supporting the relevant users and customers to understand the product or service innovation quickly.
In the end even communications and marketing efforts for an "innovation at first sight" might be easier and more effective.
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Sources and recommended reading
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. (2009). Creativity : Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/creativity/id360608711?mt=11
Einstein, Albert. Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/albert_einstein_383803
Google Search. Retrieved from https://www.google.com
Jobs, Steve. [HD] Steve Jobs - iPhone Introduction in 2007 (Complete). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hUIxyE2Ns8&t=230s&list=WL&index=2
Minogue, Kylie. Love at first sight. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wf421JsG004
This article was originally published on www.buero-zueri.ch