Continuous improvement_blocks

Don’t be afraid of the middle. Embrace it!

wazoku News

What is wrong with the middle? When it comes to innovation, nothing! To truly differentiate and make your innovation successful, it makes sense to focus on the middle because that is where people are most comfortable and are most likely to embrace change.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but as Nir Eyal, a product expert recently wrote, people gravitate toward the familiar rather than jumping blindly to something new. Using the example of the California roll, Eyal explained that Americans were suspicious of sushi and raw fish, but the California roll, which contained familiar ingredients presented in a new way, provided a comfortable way to try something foreign. Suddenly, sushi was no longer scary and could make its way into the mainstream.


There other examples of reconfiguring the familiar to change the way the mainstream approaches a product or service. Taking a slightly controversial stand, I’d argue that Uber, rather than being a radical innovation, is really a prime example of innovating for the middle. Hiring a driver and car is not a radical idea. Depending on your city, taxis, black car service, gypsy cabs, etc have been around for a long time.embrace-change-innovation

Therefore, at its core, Uber provides a familiar service – transporting individuals from A to B in a car for a fee – but delivers in a new and better way, combining technology, convenience, low cost and better service to provide an overall improved experience for the public. As with all new products or services, the ‘better’ can be cost, comfort, ease, etc, it doesn’t really matter. What matters, is by the time Uber entered the picture, the different components – a smartphone with internet access providing true mobility for individuals, and transportation services for hire – that make Uber so popular, already existed; much like the California roll, Uber merely reconfigured them to make finding and hiring a temporary ride and getting to your desired location more convenient and efficient.

So, what does this mean for your innovation efforts? I’d argue it means you shouldn’t let your innovation programme suffer at the extremes – whether focusing too much on the low end through continuous internal improvement, or alternatively only on the high end through long tail, radical innovation – but rather look at ways to innovate for the middle. As fellow Future Shaper Cris Breswick talked about in a previous post, innovating for the middle can lead to true differentiation and should play a key role in your innovation mix…

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