My latest business insight, please feel free to
pass this on to any colleague or publish it in any form you may wish, with due
acknowledgement to the author, of course.
Life Saving Innovation from
By Roger La Salle
The secret to identifying possible good ideas really lays in the art of observing people’s behaviour. This is best done using the tools of “Opportunity Capture” where there are really only five things one needs to observe:
- Predictable activities
- Widespread Activities
- Repetitious Activities
- Emerging Trends in activities
- Comparison between groups
Of course these are just the Seed of Opportunity
capture with the entire opportunity scan process being embedded in a five by
eight matrix that gives some 40 ways to explore the opportunity horizon.
However, the above seeds alone will suffice if we just use these to observe
Observation is in fact more important than asking people what they may need. Most people are unaware of the problems they encounter during their work and simply treat such difficulties as just part of the job. Imagine in days gone by a person using a bucket to draw water from a well, that’s their job. An observer may see this and go on to invent a windless, the next one a windless powered by a donkey, the next the Archimedes screw and so on. Observation was always the key to these inventions.
Properly used this approach makes it easy to identify opportunities, indeed more likely disruptive innovations.
This brings to mind a problem we observed many years ago and have now resolved and in fact brought to market. It too was based on observation but at that time the solution was a “bridge too far”. We never lost sight of the target, persisted if you like, but only acted when the time was right.
Fires in electrical switchboards and circuits almost always occur at terminations as joints become loose, corrode and resistance rises. Thermal runaway occurs with faults being termed a “Hot Spot” often resulting in fires.
For many years the approach to identity these hot spots has been all of predictable, repetitious and widespread activities with thermographers annually taking single shot thermal pictures inside electrical switchboards in an endeavour to find hot spots.
Unfortunately, as good as this may have been at the time, a thermography can never be sure when the picture is taken that the load actually causing the hot spot is even operating. It may be a water boiler that comes on early in the morning during off peak power rates, or a furnace, heat exchanger, heavy duty crane or elevator that only activates periodically. Who really knows what’s happening when the thermal image is captured?
Of course real time radio IOT alert devices are available, but these are simply not cost effective for use across the myriad of switchboards and wires that populate every building in the country.
It was this observation of the potentially dangerous hot spot situations and the sheer population of switchboards and wires that led to the development of a newly released technology.
Costing only a few cents each, permanent colour change clips that change from PURLPE to bright PINK are now available and can be attached to every cable to indicate the presence of a hot spot, no matter when it occurred. Faults are now obvious the moment you open the switchboard.
There are a number of takeaways from this development:
Switchboard monitoring fulfils many of the main criteria for an opportunity:
Taking this as a simple example of what an
Opportunity scan can achieve, on just one level, how many other safety related
events do we see only periodically monitored that could be monitored in a more
thorough fashion; and thus lead to break through innovation:
- Vehicle tyre pressure
- “Tag testing” of trade power tools only to find the tool being damaged and dangerous the very day after is passes all tests.
- Smoke Detectors
- Life jackets in boats
- Electrical appliance connections
- Gas leaks
- CO monitors for domestic heaters
- Water leaks and dripping taps
The list is endless if we simple employ this
opportunity scan approach to systemize the search for innovations.
**** ENDS ****
Roger La Salle, trains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organizations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and Business Development, is the author of four books, and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies, both in Australia and overseas. He has been responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panelist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast