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Innovation for what – Mousetrap or Suntrap?

mouusetrapJust read the excellent post on  ‘Wanted: More Idiots to tackle grassroots innovation challenges’ by Nalaka Gunawardene. Congratulations, Nalaka.

 

The point made by Nalaka is worthy of serious debate. Should you work at solutions which are in line with your innate strength, or should you find an area crying for a solution and then roll up your sleeves to do just that?

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s  much cited quote “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” is obviously nonsense for innovators. The mousetrap is the most frequently invented device in American history: the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted over 4,400 patents for new designs of mousetraps; it has rejected thousands more. Who needs a mousetrap, anyway?

 

What if all that creative energy could be directed at solving some other problem that everyone actually faces?The most important part of the innovation cycle is the discussion on what are you going to innovate about? What is the JTBD (Job To Be Done )? Getting that focus right is critical.Why spend energy making a mousetrap? Why not make a much needed suntrap instead?
Since I am a leadership trainer too, this focus on the recipient rather than the provider strikes me as being quite similar to the core of Situational Leadership. There, too, they emphasize that good leaders mould their style to suit the needs ( and capabilities) of the followers, while the bad ones stick to the one they are naturally comfortable with.

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