Innovation Case Study – Innovative Solutions Needed

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Many innovations resolve a problem or satisfy an unmet need in the marketplace. Here's an example of a situation where someone found a solution to a problem. However, the creator of the solution forgot to consider the new problems caused by their solution.

Many cities are installing new traffic signals (or modifying existing signs) to use low-energy light bulbs, which results in savings on energy costs. In many climates, these new light bulbs function properly. However, in cold climates these energy-efficient light bulbs have a problem. Some cities like Green Bay, Chicago and Minneapolis are having difficulties when snow or ice gets on the traffic lights. The new energy-efficient light bulbs do not generate as much heat as the previous bulbs, so the snow or ice covering the traffic signal does not melt when temperatures are below freezing. When the lights are covered with snow or ice, drivers can not see whether the light is red, green or yellow. Many accidents and injuries are being blamed on this problem. These cities are now looking for ways to correct the problem.

If the cities or the developers of these low-energy lights had brainstormed about future problems caused by this "energy efficient" trend, they might have foreseen this problem and created a solution before the new traffic lights were installed. Now, many cities are rushing to find a solution to fix the traffic lights that are already in place. This is an example of finding a solution to a problem, but failing to take the next step: evaluating the solution to see if it creates new problems.

An innovative company evaluates trends, such as the toward using low-energy light bulbs in traffic signals. Taking this evaluation one step further, that company could brainstorm on new problems caused by this change. Using a structured brainstorming system, the company may have predicted this problem and developed a solution to the problem before hundreds of bulbs were installed. This would result in a product (or modification) that avoids the described problem and provides a strong competitive edge in the market.

Here's the lesson from this case study: Monitoring trends and developing new products to support those trends is good for business. Watch trends in your own market or related markets to develop innovations that grow your business. However, you can distinguish yourself in the market by predicting new problems created by these trends and addressing those problems early – before your competitors.

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