Articles: Innovation – It’s in You to Find!

Innovation is the buzzword of this century – and its pursuit is already accelerating in preparation for the decades to come

It’s increasingly separating the competitive company from the non-competitive, every day. Although corporate visions include innovation more and more, it’s still not well appreciated as an ability that exists in every one of us.

Before Lean Thinking became widespread, innovation tended to be seen as the domain of academia and jealous corporate researchers. But through Lean, where employees are now more responsible and accountable for constantly improving the processes they work on – more process innovation is happening daily. And such innovation begets more innovation.

Those organizations already committed to innovation will further increase their competitive impact by enhancing Product Innovation; Process Innovation; Management Innovation and Marketing Innovation. Think of the beautiful music that could come from synchronizing this quartet.

But let’s narrow the thinking for a moment.

We have been bathing for centuries in basically the same way. Perhaps the Romans provided a bit more social flair, but the process was essentially the same. However, there is a major transformation coming to this, the most basic of human maintenance practices other than eating. And all it took was the urgency of the severe California drought to force people to rethink the world around them to find ways to drive down water use. This caused one team of innovators to wonder, ‘What if we could reduce the amount of water we use to bathe in – wow, think of all the water we could save?’ But how?

The outcome of their wondering was a new application of science and existing technology.  The innovation was a shower head that offered a 70 percent decrease in the amount of water needed for an average shower. Where did the science come in? When a drop of water is atomized under extreme pressure, it breaks up into millions of tiny droplets which offer users a mist-like spray. When atomized in this way, a drop of water now has around 10 times the surface area that it did when it was a normal droplet. This would suggest that if one could devise a shower head that could achieve this in a continuous flow, the shower would require a drastically smaller volume of water – but would still get you just as wet!  How’s that for a great idea?  

This was the innovative thinking of Nebia, a Silicon Valley start-up, that is changing the bathing experience – and cutting the use of water used in a typical shower by 70%. Multiply this saving by the number of millions of people in a warm/hot climate, or anywhere people shower.  You can easily see the impact on the water supply.

So how did they innovate it?

Nebia’s co-founder Gabriel Parisi-Amon, puts it this way: “We had to look outside of the current industry and approach the engineering problem from a completely new angle,” he explained. “The last half century of nozzle technology has completely changed what we can do with droplet sizes and distributions. However, this tech has only been applied to very specialized fields, like rocket engines and medical devices. We used these same tools and technology to develop Nebia.”

Not surprisingly, the company has secured funding from a number of private investors — including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet (Google) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, both of whom were enthused after showering under the Nebia shower head.  So what can we learn about ideas & innovation?

To Innovate (/i-no-vayt/): is to improve something with a new idea or process, or produce a product using a new and better way, or perhaps to even repurpose an old idea to produce something new and unique.

With the economic turmoil ahead, perhaps it is time to heed the cries for us to ‘Innovate like never before.’ And as in most cases, there is sound logic to begin innovating in your own world. This could be at home in the garage, or on the job at work – always keeping in mind that the scale of the innovation you begin with does not matter since innovation begets more innovation. Just start, and new possibilities will pop up. But be sure, before ‘thinking outside the box’, be sure there really is a box – and if there is – are you really sure there is nothing left to improve inside the present box? Think hard!  And get others involved since they most likely look at the world differently.

ATJ has always liked the quote “The best way to get a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” And if you recall reading John Steinbeck in your English classes at school, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

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