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Different is Interesting | The Discipline of Innovation

Different is Interesting

We’re risk averse. We don’t like change. That’s why we don’t innovate.

And yet, we choose change all the time. We get married, we have kids, we move to a new location, we take a new job, we read a book, we have an idea, we travel someplace, we hear a new song, we do something different. All the time, voluntarily.
Hagen-Renaker City Mouse

Of course, our tendencies to seek out different and new things varies.  Venkatash Rao addresses this in a fascinating post called Cloud Mouse, Metro Mouse.  It’s an excellent piece, and well worth reading.  He updates the Country Mouse, City Mouse parable for the digital age, saying:

Metro mice exult in the potential of superlinear urban growth, and rhapsodize about how large cities grow more productive and energy-efficient as they scale. Cloud mice accept those empirical realities, but regard the glorification of the megacity as a case of putting lipstick on a (necessary) pig.

The differences arise from whether physical or virtual experiences have primacy in the mind of each. For metro mice, digital realities are about enhancing material realities. For cloud mice, material realities merely help enable primary digital realities.

It is easy to figure out which kind you are. In a new metro area, do you first seek out variety via Yelp, to find the best local coffee shop? Or do you first seek out familiarity, via the Starbucks app, to find a Starbucks location to turn into your temporary local home?

So with that in mind, check this out:

video

Do something different with soap, and all of sudden everyone is a city mouse – ready to try something new.  Of course, we wouldn’t get 95% hand-washing if every public bathroom had this soap.

The video comes from the Fun Theory project, which came up with a number of creative ways to solve common problems.  The project came up with a lot of novel ideas, but it’s hard to tell how many of them would provide long-term solutions.

And yet, there has to be something to this approach.  The project is a great way to get around the need for familiarity – and this is an important step in innovation.  If you combine this meeting a genuine need, then you’re onto something.  That’s the design thinking approach to innovation.

Even the cloud mice aren’t averse to change. We just need to find ways to meet their needs.

(City mouse photo from Kay Schumpf on flickr under a Creative Commons license)

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About Tim Kastelle

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.
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