Necessity Is the Mother of Invention
Innovation! Ah What a fresh idea! I have always been innovative I think. Hundreds of years ago (I think), a guy called Plato said the following words: “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Looking back in my life and reflecting, I agree with him. There was this time that had an unfortunate experience. In the community where I lived, a murder had occurred the day prior to my unfortunate first time predicament. As usual, the police swung into reactionary action, arresting anything that moved from 7:00 p.m.
Unfortunately for me, I had just visited a couple friend of mine and had a wonderful spiritual mastermind. I grabbed 3 meat pies and left their house in a huff, singing songs and making melody, a joyous man. As it turned out, those three meat pies became my supper, breakfast and lunch. Few meters from their gate, I met a men who huffed past me without saying a word! Let me let the man alone for now, but in another forum, I could use him for a totally different ‘moral of the story’. It turned out that the man had just encountered the arrest-happy police men and I was heading straight in their direction. He could have warned me and they would never have known, but that would have robbed me of a moment of invention.
Invent or Die
Long story short, I was arrested because I was not carrying the National Identification with me. I could have produced it if they escorted me to my house, a couple of hundreds of meters away…but well, we are still developing as a nation. For the first time in my life, I was in a police cell. Now, this created a necessity moment. To get out, one had to bribe the police officers or at least send for his relatives to come and do the trick. I had no relative to call, my dad had traveled. There were no mobile phones then to call and locate. My goose was cooked…until 16 hours later, I Innovated!
Clutching my chest and producing a wheezing sound, coughing as if gasping for breathe and air, I fell on the ground and feigned…I don’t know what. It couldn’t have been fainting or heart attack or asthma attack. It might have been a blend of all that because the stone-hearted police officers who hitherto had refused all my pleas swung into action. Their Commanding Officer commanded (what else could he do?) that they get me a soft drink. I was put outside under a tree and treated like an invalid…and shortly after allowed to go home.Necessity is the mother of invention. It’s true.
When Dreams are the Mother of Invention
In the innovation and ideation world, we see very many ‘challenges’ coming. Innovators are being invited to go pitch their ideas, prototypes and so on to solve problems. In an ‘open challenge’ where a problem is not specified, there is a worrying phenomenon that is taking place. A host of many young people are thinking that creating a App is innovation. So they put all their efforts in creating the App and neglect the core issues of innovation: Problem Solving, Providing Solutions, Finding a new and better way to address quagmires in life.
Many youths are not thinking past an App. I could say it is the same scenario with my ‘invention’ at the police cells. It cannot pass the test of time, it is not legitimate, it cannot be duplicated all over, it cannot solve common problems in wider circles of everyday life.
If you are starting up an innovation or startup you need to ask yourself the following questions:
1. The Business Model:
If it is an App, what problem is it solving? Is that problem widespread? Is the App unique in that it is the only one that can solve that problem? How does its solving of the problem you created it for bring financial reward for your time, software development and efforts that you have spent on it?
Apart from you and your girlfriend being excited about it (I mean it is an achievement and you really ought to be happy that you completed something), who else is excite about it? Where is your market? Whom are you targeting really? Where do they live? How many are they? Can all of them afford it? Can they live without it? Is your idea a disruption in that it creates a new way of doing things? Can your Idea be relevant 10 years from now? (with updates of course)
3. Back End/Team:
So the App is ready, done and dusted. But where is the ‘back end’ of it’s implementation? Where is your implementation team? Where is your support structure for the App? Is the App all we need? If the App is solving a social problem, have we thought it through? Do we have a complete mind map of the whole business? Where are the rest of your team members? How strong are they? How concentrated are they in their strengths?
4. Customers/ Real Market:
What are the demographics of your ream market? Is it there? Can you see them? Do they know how to use Apps or will you need to train them? How many are they? Is their distribution sparse or dense over a region? Are they distributed across a large geographical area?
In the spirit of not re-inventing the wheel, who else has a solution that you are offering? Is it better than yours? Is yours better than theirs? Looking at it carefully, are the features in your App new that the target market will need to re-learn? How easy it is for your target customers to move on from other existing solutions to yours?
Innovation, invention, startups, and entrepreneurship need to be a whole bigger, deeper and well thought out initiatives other than technology. You might find out that the App is not the real deal, the real deal is in other areas. Have you focused on them?