In Plato’s early treatise, entitled Republic, he concluded that “necessity is the mother of invention,” but I like to think the more accurate translation is that necessity is the mother of all innovation. Many people use these two terms interchangeably, but there are finite differences between the two.
Necessity is the mother of innovation
Transformational product development and innovation is often found when necessity abounds. Consider for a moment some of the recent innovations created in Africa. Each of the following devices has evolved an already useful item into something that exceeds expectations, simplifying daily life while at the same time possessing commercial viability.
Mubser – navigational aid tool
People throughout the world have benefited from the assistance of global positioning systems, employing the technology to direct their movements from one location to another. Unlike GPS, Mubser is a near-field navigational tool designed for use by the visually-impaired. A belt with a Bluetooth-connected headset gives an audible guide for the locations of such obstacles as walls, chairs, tables, stairs, etc. It relies on a 3D depth camera to acquire its data. Mubser is the brainchild of a 22 year-old Egyptian student and classmates from a computer engineering course. It is certain to improve the quality of life for anyone suffering from a visual disability.
Cardiopad – remote ECG tablet
Cardiologists have grown to rely on the information gained from an electrocardiogram (ECG), but such a diagnostic tool has only been available at well established medical facilities. Arthur Zang, a 26 year-old citizen of Cameroon, decided that the ECG’s lack of availability in remote areas was simply unacceptable. As a result, he designed the Cardiopad which wirelessly transfers test results to physicians who can interpret the data.
Malaria pf/PAN – test kit
Malaria has been one of the most deadly illnesses ever known. Prevalent in both the ancient world and today’s, the best hope for those with the illness is immediate and accurate medical treatment. Particularly deadly on the continent of Africa, the Malaria pf/PAN Test Kit improves the previous Malaria test, detecting all strains and indicating within 30 minutes whether the treatment will be effective. With the information provided by this test kit, patients are given more hope than ever for a successful recovery.
How to find your innovation inspiration
Plato was obviously correct in his assumption – need does indeed spark the fires of creativity. Each of the innovators behind these products witnessed a desperate need and then employed their own creativity to fill the demand. Product innovation and the stages of development that place those products into the world’s hands can be a daunting process, but it is an invigorating one with the right understanding. To determine where innovation is needed – change that will add value – you only need to identify problems that have not been solved. Keep a notebook with you to record your own experiences and jot notes from observing and talking with people. Read broadly to relate previously unrelated information. Also, network with other creative people to help you refine and enhance your ideas.