August 4, 2011
We live in a world punctuated by big innovations. From fire and the wheel down to the light bulb and the iPad, we mark the march of history by the steady beat of transformative innovations. Except that steady beat is no longer so steady. The rate at which these life-altering innovations are coming to market is accelerating so quickly that it's no longer sufficient to invoke even Moore's Law to explain them.
Not only are new things being introduced more swiftly than before but consumers are adopting them more rapidly than before. I make my living studying early adopters, but recently I've had to throw many hard-earned lessons out the window. Because in a world where Microsoft sold 8 million Kinect cameras for the Xbox 360 in just two months, traditional definitions of "early adopter" became irrelevant after about week two.
This is both exciting and maddening. We've spent that last several years watching the acceleration of innovation to figure out what is making this rate of innovation possible and we've discovered that innovating at this pace is tricky, but doable, with the right approach.
Our approach is called "innovating the adjacent possible" and it's fast, messy, and for long-timers it will be counterintuitive. But it works — it explains the changes in the recent past and will dictate the future, unlocking new products, services, platforms, and experiences. Today we are launching our model in a report that details how to innovate the adjacent possible. In the report, we tackle the biggest proof point of all: the iPad. We show that the iPad’s success is, in fact, the clearest example of our core concept — innovating the adjacent possible. Because the iPad wasn’t “invented” by Apple at all. The genius of what Apple did was not invention, but adjacent innovation, in effect, combining the best innovations of others to create a completely new and singular experience. That’s the central pattern of innovating the adjacent possible –taking digital shortcuts to harness and combine adjacent innovations into a new thing — the next big thing.
Under the heading of “put up or shut up,” we can’t propose an approach for generating the next big product if we’re not willing to prove that it works. To that end, we humbly submit in the following video our very own big product idea: the Magic Mirror.
If you’re thinking even one step ahead, you have realized that the Magic Mirror not only helps you get ready on Friday night but that it also becomes your ultimate shopping assistant, fashion consultant, cosmetics counter, and so many other things that companies currently spend millions of dollars trying to persuade you to interact with or pay for outside of your home. And if you’re thinking two steps ahead, you realize that whatever company controls the Magic Mirror owns you.
That's the potential power of innovating the adjacent possible: You can generate ideas that can be deployed quickly, that exploit current consumer behaviors, and that create powerful platforms for ongoing customer relationships. We'll be adding details and case studies to this line of research in the coming months and years, so stay tuned, but do not relax, because the rate of change is still accelerating. Innovation will get even faster and you will, too, if you intend to stay in business.