A Ping-Pong Match: Problems and Solutions in Entering the Innovation Game — Part I
Entering the market as an independent player is traditionally hard because of a lack of funds, a well-defined prototype and a time-tested team with complementary skills ready to stand on the long-run. Initial business-focused concepts and ideas are undervalued, considered as a problem-solving skill, rather than a legitimate asset to profit with.
In the first part of this Problem/Solution article-series, we’ll take a look at the main problems for regular people entering today’s innovation game.
- The Innovation game, selection of the fittest, and a ping-pong match
Let’s consider the traditional innovation landscape as a ping-pong match: on one side we have the innovators, who may be anyone and anything from a “garage-kind” of entrepreneur to a multi-billion dollar multinational company — and on the other side, we have the consumers of the innovation itself, which is the majority of our society.
Continuing with the ping-pong example, innovation is developed and implemented by the first team of innovators, which serves the innovative product/solution/service to the second team of the consumers. If the innovative product is successful, the first set finishes there, and both parties move to the next turn. If instead, the product doesn’t work, or for whatever reason doesn’t satisfy them, the second team serves the ball back to the first team for them to rework it or make it better. In this analogy consumers and innovators keep serving each other innovation back and forth on the two sides of the table.
Now, the ping-pong analogy is clearly an exaggeration, but that’s not far from showing the actual inefficiency of this process, where standard innovators try to predict what their consumers may want and anticipate their desires. Besides being ineffective, this process is extremely expensive and, most of all, arbitrary. In fact, how did innovators get to be such? Who determined, or elected them to be the fittest for the role of doing something better?
Because that’s what innovation is, after all: doing something better. Whether it is improving a process, creating something more enjoyable/entertaining, bringing more transparency or saving costs, innovation in general terms makes things better.
2. The triangle of innovation, apiculture and where ideas come from
Since in the initial analogy we already identified the common denominator in innovation being the teams of innovators and users, we can skip that part — but still, innovation is a broad term. Everything from flying cars to growth hacking techniques in an apicultural campaign may be considered innovative at times, disregarding their industry.
Now, as it is not the purpose of this article, we won’t be trying to get a final, over-encompassing definition of what innovation is — rather raising a more interesting question: who or what generates innovation? And how to get involved in the process?
A trivial answer to the first question would be: people, companies, society — but we can go deeper than that. In fact, as we have learned in school about the great inventors across the centuries, and we have seen in our times with the rise of peer economics and alternative finance, innovation in itself is just the application of a raw idea. Unfortunately, though, as we already know ideas are worthless — so again, how to enter at some step of the innovation chain? How can an inventor, a creator of our time, enter the gigantic production/business industry and bring innovation in everyone’s life?
Let’s see it this way, after the most unpolished & unshaped idea has been conceived, the real innovation race starts — passing through the prototyping of a product, the funding spree, the personal thunderbolt of building a team.
These three elements — product, funds, team — constitute a sort of triangle of innovation, and the three of them together, across a long process, pack the initial idea into a good product/solution/service to be served to a consumer of some sort as in the ping-pong analogy mentioned above.
3. Building a table to play, intangible assets, and peer networks
And what about us? What are we supposed to do in order to be part of the process and join the innovators team, so to speak, and ideally get a share of the value we pushed forward in our society?
Well, there’s no easy answer to that, as not only ideas, in themselves, are hard to monetize, but together with contributions, creativity and any kind of human capital are in nature intangible assets — hard both to manage as well as to quantify. (Here and here you can see more on how to quantify the ideation process, though, if you were willing to try it yourself nonetheless.)
The value, for being determined in a measurable way, should be built along the process, rather than beforehand, and we still lack an encompassing infrastructure where the elements of the innovation-match are not needed or are naturally embedded within the system itself.
Our solution to this, rather than improving one process or the other, is to build the table where this innovation-match is played — a real peer network, a human layer of innovation where anyone with a valuable idea or contribution could enter and exit at any time they wish.
This way, a-Qube’s platform functions as an Innovation Hub where the different participants play their role in the community, either as auditors, validators, creators, contributors or merchants. Each player can easily take part in the network by contributing to a specific task, section, or project at their choice, being rewarded for their contribution without the need to be involved in further stages.
In the second part of this series, we will analyze these elements point-by-point, and build the bigger picture progressively.