The inventive stepDecember 17th, 2012 by naktinis
Recently I got a comment from one user that BusyFlow is solving a problem that he didn’t know having. This started me thinking about serving people’s needs by innovation. It’s not like we solved a problem he didn’t have, or invented a problem and later provided a solution. We simply gave a new perspective on the way things are (in this case – productivity using multiple cloud apps). This comment means that if this user was asked about the problems he had regarding productivity, he would have likely said that he has none. He was using state of the art tools to do his work and was probably doing that better than many of his peers. However, this does not mean his work could not be improved, e.g. by making it more productive or enjoyable. He just didn’t know it was possible or how it was possible.
This is where it takes an inventive step: acknowledging that a positive change is possible and prototyping a design that could work. When coming up with a new idea we are constrained by existing terms that shape our thinking. Take, for example, project management. We all have some sort of mental picture of what it is and how it is supposed to work. And precisely such concepts not only give us means of understanding, but also limits us in finding new (but related) concepts.
You should, of course, listen to people you’re trying to help. They can be a real inspiration and point to problems that need to be solved, but their proposed solutions should not be taken for granted, because in many cases they only take time to ponder on very slight variations of existing concepts. It is not as if they were thinking how they should wipe their existing process and restructure their business from scratch.
In BusyFlow we’re often discussing whether we should create more a project management tool, a social network for enterprise, a personal productivity tool, or even a (recently coined) cloud aggregator. For me, however, the goal is to create a product that would help people become more productive and enjoy their work, not to squeeze it into some category. I still use categories to introduce something new by showing it next to something familiar, or when I have less than 2 minutes for an explanation. I try, however, to avoid categorization when prototyping and researching. And this, I believe, helps to take the inventive step.