Inside the Box Thinking, an Innovation Technique

The idea of frugal innovation ties to a philosophy pushing people to think inside the box. Not outside the box. “But how will I innovate?” you might ask. These schools of thought steer away from relating capital investment directly to innovation. They reinforce that you don’t need to be a ‘creative’ mind to achieve true innovation.

Growing up, I would play with legos. A lot. I would tend to make my own creations, rather than following instructions. Being 10, I still had a mild source of creativity in me, but there was a process. I wouldn’t play with the whole bucket of legos. Grabbing a handful in each hand, I drop them in front of me and say to myself, “What can I do with these?” That’s the foundation of frugal innovation, the idea of creating within your limitations.
The idea of frugal innovation ties to a philosophy pushing people to think inside the box. Not outside the box. “But how will I innovate?” you might ask. These schools of thought steer away from relating capital investment directly to innovation. They reinforce that you don’t need to be a ‘creative’ mind to achieve true innovation.
Innovation Cat
Cats do it all the time. And we all know, they’re geniuses.
The Hindi colloquialism for this is jugaad. It is when you innovate a shortcut using what’s around you. What are the advantages of frugal innovation? Cutting costs while achieving results. In the long run, successful innovations should cut costs and increase profits. The aim is to change spend culture surrounding innovation in the short run. Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg argue in their book Inside The Box that limiting your resources leads to better solutions. Using only what you have in your box leads to innovations that you can test, iterate, and achieve. Ideas thought never achievable with your ‘ordinary uncreative’ mind.
The difference between frugal innovation and Inside The Box thinking is the difference between a philosophy and a process. Frugal innovation is the idea of innovating within your limits, and Inside The Box thinking is the manual of innovative thinking. We must recognize the philosophy is to increase innovation without increasing spending. You will be able to work within limits, including financial limits. Now, take that R&D budget and imagine saving some off the research process. Spend those savings on execution. Change your innovation routine. Spending more does not equate to innovating better.
The Closed World
The ideas discussed in Inside The Box prove innovation beyond spending. Let’s discuss the closed world. We covered this, using a few different words. The closed world is working within your limitations when creating new solutions to problems. Imagine you’re in a room with no doors, no phone, or internet. Now in that room you have a whiteboard with some permanent marker on it. The only things in the rooms are an eraser, the whiteboard markers and the board itself. How do you use this imagined closed world to have a creative solution to this problem? Well, by writing over the permanent marker with whiteboard markers, you are able to make it erasable. Voila, you used the closed world to create a solution.
It’s time to bring your thought process back inside the box, and inside your budget. Having a frugal innovation process doesn’t have to be a bad thing. And in this case, it can make you more creative. But how do you do it?
 
Steps to Innovation
Start off with asking “What are the different parts of my product or service?” And choose one of the following….
Now completely remove it or one of its features.
Divide the components…
  • Functionally (location or timing)
  • Physically (cut it along a line or rearranging it)
  • Preserving (dividing into smaller pieces that have the same characteristics of the whole)
Multiply those components, by how many ever times desired, and change the attributes of those copies.
Take those different internal or external features and effectively give them more responsibilities of each other.
Create an active or passive dependency with the product. That is something that changes its use dependant on its state, physically or otherwise.
In each case, it is best to list out the components when going through the process. This allows you to define, manipulate, and remove different components to create new products, services, and processes. Happy innovating!

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