Friday, October 05, 2012
What are the seasons of innovation?
They are the phases from idea to actualization.
I recently asked my son, Edan Shahar, "What is the Utrip experience
teaching you? What have you learned about innovation and business creation?"
Utrip helps travelers plan the most personal trip to their dream destinations. It takes the headache out of travel planning. If you are planning a two-week vacation to Europe and want to design a personalized itinerary to meet your interests and passions, Utrip will reduce 20 hours of confusing research into 20 minutes of enjoyable discovery.
Since Utrip is Edan's third startup adventure, I was looking to see what new lessons he learned. In this KEY I share his insight about the seasons of innovation.
The ancient agricultural economy was governed by the seasons. Farmers planned their work in winter, planted in spring to grow food in summer, harvested their crops in the fall and saved food to live on through winter as they planned the next cycle. You could not produce faster than the speed of the seasons. Growth was determined by nature.
When did humans escape the limitations imposed on them by the seasons? That's what the Industrial Revolution brought. It enabled people to manipulate the speed of production cycles.
And so I was intrigued when Edan said what he learned from the Utrip experience was the seasons of innovation. Here is how Edan framed it. The Seasons of Innovation
Innovation and business creation follow a life-cycle of seasons. Each season is different in nature and puts different demands on the team. Think of winter, spring, summer, and autumn in terms of seed, germinate, grow, and harvest. Winter - Seed
The seed of innovation is the idea, the discovery, the realization of an unaddressed problem. You capture an insight of an unmet need. The insight becomes the inspiration for a new product, service or solution you can begin to imagine. This first inspiration is when the end product feels the nearest although it is the furthest.
In the case of Utrip, the seed was Utrip CEO Gilad Berenstein's frustration for not being able to plan a trip around the Barcelona soccer games and include everything else that he wanted to accomplish when he toured Europe. This got Gilad and Edan talking and dreaming and ultimately led them to co-found Utrip. This seed was the winter of the Utrip solution. "We asked how it would be possible to turn the headache of planning flight times, tickets, events, hotels, transportation, and food into an easy and fun experience. We wanted to create a solution that would do all these things for you and remove the need to spend hours flipping through outdated guide books and confusing websites," Edan said.
The winter of ideas is long and cold; maybe one out of a hundred ideas ever makes it to the germination in the spring. Spring - Germinate.
Germinating the seed is done by using the excitement of the insight to quickly create a first prototype. You turn the idea into a plausible story. You imagine what it will look like; who will benefit from it; what will make it enjoyable and valuable, and what will have to be true for the idea to work. You examine the first obvious challenges and ask: How will we use these challenges and constraints to build a unique and differentiated solution? Germinating an idea requires support and contained conditions to protect and nurture the idea as it evolves. Pruning is part of this effort, too; you'll want to choose between many options to get focused and move the process forward to the next phase.
In the case of Utrip, germinating the idea led to building the database that supports the Utrip algorithm, and prototyping a user experience that enables people to have the best trip. "We wanted to give travelers the ability to personalize their trips around their unique passions and constraints," Edan explained. "We began creating a system that makes highly intelligent suggestions based on the interests and personal requirements of travelers. For example, the program suggests a schedule that includes visits to your perfect restaurant next to the museum you will love, just in time for you to make it to your favorite concert."
The spring of innovation typically sees 1 out of 10 seeds begin to grow in the summer. Summer - Grow.
This is where the heavy work begins. To grow and develop your innovative idea, you need to find the right people, build capabilities and resources, bring in funds, and build the foundation and connections that are critical to get the idea off the ground. As you grow and develop your solution, product or service, it draws in new energy and the excitement of new possibilities. At the same time you encounter the resistance of logistical, financial, and organizational challenges. The pressure cooker and intensity of a lean startup is the best accelerator for development and growth. You must apply discipline and focus and keep the vision in mind as you execute the next steps ahead of you.
In the case of Utrip, we recruited a growing support group that burned the midnight oil to help us bootstrap Utrip through to launching our beta. Utrip is now in its summer growth phase. Our mission is to give every person the opportunity to discover the world for themselves based on their specific desires and interests. Our focus is on creating the smartest and most intelligent trip experience for each client. It's a thrill to see the idea turning into a service that begins to blossom. There is immense joy in helping travelers create their dream trip. Autumn - Harvest
Harvesting and applying learning is the currency of innovation. Each day you have finite resources of time and energy and the key is applying these in the most productive and effective way to create meaningful progress. Harvesting learning and application is done at every step. The harvest is not just the big liquidity event in the future. Harvesting learning and improving every day are in the teamwork and the organizational DNA you cultivate along the journey. To deliver the value at the end you work to deliver value every day.
In the case of Utrip, this is our focus. It's a discovery journey every day. We enable people to discover the power of designing their next adventure.
The Utrip journey reveals two points about the seasons of innovation:
The quicker you move through the seasons of Seed, Germinate, Grow, and Harvest, the faster the innovation process and the greater the breakthrough potential.
Although it may seem to contradict the first point, you must hold a healthy tension as you lead an innovation effort through all four seasons. Learning takes the full cycle. You cannot skip any of the stages, not when you work to innovate. You must apply yourself fully at every step, every day, to make the most of it.
That's the essence of the seasons. Being at full as a seed
provides energy to germinate
the possibilities of a solution that grow
into a new business, the fruits of which you can then harvest
Now it's your turn. Turn the Key. Re-imagine your innovation effort: Seed. Germinate. Grow. And Harvest. Then begin the cycle again. It's a great way to create new futures for you and your teams.
© Aviv Shahar