Innovation 1.0: The Four P’s of Innovation? Yes, you can.

UNICEF Youth Photo Workshop facilitated by International Photographer Giacomo Pirozzi at Innovation Lab in Vietnam. © UNICEF/UNI219593/Pirozzi

Can I kick it? Yes, you can.

While A Tribe Called Quest inspired Barack Obama’s memorable presidential campaign, the song Can I Kick It? also beget the lesser known Four P’s of Innovation.

Pause here to call it up for listening as you read.

Innovation is an ongoing process of applying new technologies to existing challenges or practices. It is often viewed as the application of improved solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing challenges. When done well, radical change and transformation occur. Innovators rewrite the rules, leaving some grasping to understand.

“A baobab is simply a small seed that stood its ground.”

In any context — the marketplace or development space, for an innovation to be deemed successful it must stand its ground and be able scale up, to expand, extend, blow up, to grow into something big. This is where the Four P’s come into play.

1. Can I Plug it? Ignore the industry standards and you will remain at the peripheral. As simple as it sounds, often incompatibility can stifle growth. The key to scale has always been standardize first and customize second. Motor vehicles are standard in terms of their make, yet customized as brands. They all have engines wheels, doors, interiors yet they are all different. The key is to identify what can be customized and what remains essentially the same. Airbus took on Boeing by standardizing the cockpit controls across its range of aircrafts making pilot training and upgrading much easier than Boeing. If you still have any doubt, look at what cloud computing has done with compatibility across devices. One account that can be used across multiple devices. So, “Can I plug it? Yes, you can.”

2. Can I Play it? This test refers to user experience. Have you ever noticed the amount of care and effort that goes into “unboxing” the package of a new product or service? When done well you can almost hear the trumpets in the background as you open the package or service for the first time. Take mobile phones and how easy it has become to transfer applications and contacts from one phone to another. Manufacturers realized customers were not upgrading their devices because of the challenge of moving old data from one device to the other. Today it is seamless, quick, and fun to upgrade. So, “Can I play it? Yes, you can.”

3. Can I Push it? If you are designing an application or product you are going to be hit in the face with the daunting task of getting people to use it. The way the user gets to know about the innovation and then how they start using it becomes key. Consider the growth of cryptocurrency where you have several different types such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP, Litecoin and many others. The market will go through a process of consolidation and many forms will become extinct. The most successful of the cryptocurrencies will be the ones with the strongest push or easiest route to market. Not every new product or service can be pushed or is worthy of pushing. So, “Can I push it? Yes, you can

4. Can I Pull it? This is all about usage — how often (frequency) and how much (volume and value). High frequency of use often leads to high volume and value, which makes a product or service scalable and successful. Careful consideration must be given to the product or service size. When designing an application this is key. Big applications, no matter how good, simply don’t achieve scale if the mobile device simply does not have memory space to accommodate it. Easy to use applications become popular simply because of this. Look at Apple and the iPhone, Google and the Play Store, Amazon and Alexa. So “Can I pull it? Yes, you can

If the answer to all the Four P’s is affirmative, then you can scale it and your product or service will be considered a success. Ignore the questions at your own detriment. Our Elders say “The cockerel does not negotiate with the owner the day before the market.” Always consider the Four P’s as checklist before you introduce an innovative product or service.

So, there you have it, the Four P’s of innovation. Yes, you can innovate, for every child.