Why reverse innovation is a must for Africa
There is a silly cartoon and I’ll admit I enjoy watching them from time to time because of how simply and crudely they represent the hardest things in our lives. Anyway in this episode the whole village was going to run a marathon. The chief of the village decided he was going to join in for the first time in his life and he was about 40 at this point. They blew the whistle and everybody was off expect the chief. So everyone runs back to him to find out why he wasn’t running with the other participants and he responded — “I cant decide, I simply cant decide, left or right which foot should I have start with” So because no one wanted to embarrass the chief, they all decided to quit the race and throw a him party. In the end not much running was done.
Step by Step
While talking to entrepreneurs everyday, I get the sense that most business owners aren’t sure which leg to start with especially with technology. In a country where most youth are using Watsapp but cannot type out a simple document using a word editor let alone email, I fully understand the dilemma.
How does a business owner provide value to the masses in this internet age, in a country like Uganda? My answer is typically, Baby steps! You don’t have to choose today. It doesn’t have to be left or right, its probably neither. Go spend sometime with the your target market and develop a custom solution with them, for them.
Most of us are of the schooling that “no one should reinvent the wheel” but if the wheel is to travel along third world roads — pothole ridden roads then maybe we need to completely forget about using the wheel and come up with something else.
I believe the future lies in reverse innovation. Instead of trying to fit triangles into circle holes, all business owners need to think about what makes sense, really makes sense for their clients.
We need to dare to challenge the solutions that exist today. And if they don’t make sense, dare to think of new ones because more often than not its neither right or left. Its a mutated mashup of the two or another direction all together.
A client who uses mobile apps but can’t power on a laptop, I admit is a challenge but therein lies the opportunity to truly innovate.
Don’t stand shivering upon the bank; plunge in at once, and have it over. Sam Slick