Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Furby Inventor Defines Innovation

Due to prior commitments, I was unable to attend Kickstart, an entrepreneur event held in Boise late last week. This event generated a lot of pre and post buzz that I'm disappointed I missed it and didn't make a better effort to attend. Much of what I learned about what took place at last week's event came from local news reports I keep tabs on periodically. One report caught my attention from the Idaho Business Review.

Caleb Chung, inventor of the Furby, a talking toy that was all the rage about 7 or 8 years ago wrapped up the event with a speech on entrepreneurship and designing toys. Here's something he said that I think sums up what innovation is:

Innovation requires three things: art, science and business. Art is a great ingredient – the why to do something; science is the how. Balancing the three ingredients is what makes an enterprise great, otherwise you have great tech no one wants, art stuck in the Stone Age or a business plan with no heart.
I couldn't agree more.

I think too often product developers enter the process of developing the "next big thing" or the software or web application that will change the world in how we live and think with a strong bias toward one of the three areas Chung described. I've seen some developers concentrate way too heavily on the science of their application and give little thought as to the business model it will be a part of. On the other hand, I've seen too much attention be given to the art or aesthetics of the application when more attention should be paid to the science or substance of the program.

As Chung said, the key is balancing the three. I've been advocating using a consultant or a third party as part of the product development process to help lend balance and perspective. You can read my previous posts on this subject here and here - why you should hire a usability consultant. You may also be interested in reading a post I wrote about PinPoint's business model back in February. I think it meshes very nicely with Chung's view on innovation.

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