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Things discovered by accident

I heard Charles Dunstone, CEO of Carphone Warehouse, recently explain how texting is an accidental market – The text function on the phone wasn’t intended for customer-to-customer communication. It was put on there so telecoms engineers could communicate with customers to keep them updated about fixes.

As your organisation comes up with all kinds of innovation processes for ‘industrialising’ innovation to keep ahead of customer wants, spare a thought for the role of randomness, as with these Things Discovered By Accident, from Fast Company magazine:

“The list of things created by accident is certainly impressive;

Diners Club,
DNA finger printing,
microwave ovens,
velcro and

I’m not sure how ‘Lamborghini’ or even ‘Vodafone’was discovered as an accident: “Oh, look, we dropped the molten metal and it’s formed itself into a 500 brakehorsepower car by accident. Let’s call it a Lamborghini Diablo!.” But, anyway…

As well as randomness, there’s the totally unexpected innovative opportunity if you watch how how customers use existing products. Gary Hamel, the strategy guru and a previous speaker at ecsw’s European Conference on Customer Management, cites the example of the microwave manufacturer who put webcams in student dorms to see how the students used their product.

They discovered that their microwaves were being used by students to dry their pants after doing the laundry. And, yes, microwave clothes dryers are on the way as a result. Keep an eye on those customers: they’re a strange lot.

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