Innovators – R&D centers of any social context

December 11, 2011

Innovators are the R&D center of each social context.

Innovativeness should never be regarded as a stand-alone concept, because it is essentially linked with other forces of the SAM (Social Adoption Mechanism). If innovators are the R&D center, then opinion leaders are the marketing department of the social context, adapting the R&D’s innovations to fit the social context’s needs. And both ‘departments’ are necessary for a social context to adapt innovations efficiently.

If your aim is to analyse the innovator’s behavior, or to co-create with them, try to consider the other cogs of his social context as well.  Focussing too much on an isolated group of innovators might result in a lot of great ideas that miss relevance to the social context. The interactions between innovators, opinion leaders and other members of the social context, is what really should be the object of observation or collaboration.

Spear B: the birth of the first brand

May 30, 2011

Most probably, the first brand must have appeared long before human beings were able to speak. It could well have happened on a moment as the one I’ll describe here …

For long, this tribe in Northern America has been hunting and staying close to a herd of buffalos. But due to a cold period, the herd has migrated towards the south, leaving our tribe with a food problem. Their hunting techniques and equipment have been finetuned during the last decades to attack buffalos. Spear A has been proven very useful in penetrating the buffalo’s skin. Erik, the blacksmith (avant la lettre) who invented this spear A, has spent his entire live developing and refining his innovation. His son, Björn, learned a lot from his father but developed his own technique in crafting spears. Despite his father’s instructions, he focussed on a sharper spear, less secure when thrown at the animal, but able to penetrate a thicker type of skin. Björn has practiced this new spear on different kinds of wood, improved it, and tested it over and over. Björn even argued that it would allow them to hunt down the biggest animal of them all … the mammoth. Unfortunately, noone would care to listen to his fantasies, not for the least his own father.

Johan, who is very aware of the problems his tribe is facing, is willing to take a risk. As a trusted opinion leader, he believes in Björn’s spear. He asks some of his blacksmith friends to have a look at it, to change the grip of the spear and to lighten the weight so it can be thrown from further away. When he considers spear B to be ready to give it a try, the tribe assembles some of its best hunters and equips them with Spear B. The hunting of mammoth had begun …

I may hope this story illustrates how the first brand could have been born, making use of only word-of-mouth (actually, the first form of WOM must have been sound-of-mouth or gesture-by-hand :-)) and the SAM (social adoption mechanism). Spear B was the perfect answer to a changing environment and consequently an emerging need within the social system … Björn had the answer, Johan linked the innovation with the emerging need. The SAM did its job … it’s some plain and simple marketing.