Most companies operate under the assumption that innovation and disruption are one and the same. For more than two decades, businesses have been engaged in an increasingly fast, never-ending, and contentious pursuit of the next breakthrough product or service that will displace existing markets, industries, and technologies.
But what if this narrow view is underestimating the true power of innovation? Sometimes, when the definition of innovation is expanded, organizations can concentrate on solving long-existing problems through innovative thinking to revolutionize – not disrupt – standard practices.
The value of revolutionizing the status quo, not disrupting it
At BPW Innovation Lab, we commit ourselves to create innovative solutions for some of the biggest challenges in the logistics industry – from automatic driving to logistic networks and sensors on loading equipment. We help our parent company, BPW Group, create new business models that deliver new technologies to senders and receivers of goods and services, as well as their transportation providers.
In recent years, we noticed that production companies are well-informed about the activities in their production facilities. However, once goods or products left this safe environment, this information is no longer shared across the supply chain – a reality that is commonly referred as the “information black hole.”
By looking at the problem through a different lens, we devised a way to eliminate a status quo of limited visibility to give supply chain managers the information they need to run more efficiently. Now, senders and receivers of goods and products can leverage a digital network based on the Internet of Things, so they can track and trace the position and condition of the freight, traffic events, and weather changes. All of this information is transmitted back to the provider’s system, uncovering insight our customers need to readjust routes and ensure on-time, safe delivery. And this knowledge enables them to find better ways to service their own customers when they are requesting that their manufactured product be shipped to a retailers or consumer.
Solving age-old problems requires a new way of thinking
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
– Albert Einstein
For better or for worse, human instinct colors personal bias intentionally and unintentionally. These erected walls restrain imaginative thinking and blind us from seeing the situation or opportunity that’s right in front of our eyes. When working with 20 people in the same room representing the boardroom and every line of business, reaching a consensus on a sound idea that can significantly impact the bottom line is nearly impossible.
To question – and improve – the status quo, we knew that we had to step out of our comfort zone and study the shipping process in new and different ways. Design thinking empowered the team, project stakeholders, and executive sponsors to look at the problem from a variety of perspectives. We invited our customers to participate in the process so we can hear firsthand accounts from their general managers, head of logistics, head of the supply chain, dispatchers, and individuals who are affected by logistics and supply chain performance.
This out-of-the-box thinking enabled us to solve a missing link in today’s transport practices by applying technology that our customers are beginning to adopt. More importantly, our customers are becoming more aware of the risks of not tracking their shipments when they leave the production facility, while seizing an opportunity to provide a new service to their customers.
Design thinking ignites innovation that matters most
Although all disruptions are innovations, not all innovations are disruptions – just like all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. However, breakthrough innovation can be a powerful, transformational force. It can shift existing paradigms and spur unprecedented growth, and create networks that help people work together to address more significant opportunities. But these possibilities cannot be accomplished without acting creatively and assessing all aspects of a situation without bias.
With design thinking, people from a variety of organizations, or only one, can collaborate and create a constant flow of high-quality ideas. And once a concept is defensible from the perspective of the business, user, and anyone else who may be impacted as well, the approach sets the foundation for fast prototyping and delivery of the innovation.
For more on how innovation can transform business, see The Holy Grail Of Innovation In Today’s Digital Era.