The Mother of Innovation

There’s an old English proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In a world uncluttered with gadgets and peripherals, it makes a lot of sense. If the world needs something, society will find a way to make it happen. Take the telephone for example. As the world outgrew the telegraph’s limited dot-and-dash Morse code, a need emerged for a more efficient and expressive way to communicate across long distances. But what about innovations? Are they too driven by our needs?

Take, for example, a smartphone. It’s basically a telephone, MP3 player, digital camera, internet browser, and GPS unit all slammed into one device. Certainly an innovation that many people around the world would claim to need these days. But come on – a need, really? For an even clearer example think of all the other smart devices we now have at our disposal. Smart thermostats, smart watches, smart refrigerators. Smart, smart, smart! Convenient, sure, but I’d argue these innovations respond to something entirely different.

While inventions are created in response to something we need, innovation occurs in response to something we feel. We want to feel more intelligent. We want to feel more connected. More responsible. More satisfied. If necessity is the mother of invention, then perhaps affect is the mother of innovation. And tapping into how your customers feel while interacting with your company, its products, and services has never been more important.

These days, top companies know how to navigate the mysterious no-man’s-land that is innovative design. They’re ditching the status quo and adopting experimentation and iteration as the new best practice. Instead of analyzing the needs of their customers from 10,000 feet, they’re in the field uncovering emotional insights. They’re developing prototypes and asking customers how they feel. They’re creating iteration after iteration to maximize emotional highs and minimize emotional lows. And their reaping huge rewards!

Certainly, there will always be a need for the traditional, analytical way of doing business. However, to create growth your company must look beyond what your customers need and start listening instead to how they feel.

Bryan Brush