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The Innovator’s Hypothesis

How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More than Good Ideas

By Michael Schrage
10-minute read
Audio available
The Innovator’s Hypothesis: How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More than Good Ideas by Michael Schrage

The Innovator’s Hypothesis (2014) shows us how modern innovation no longer comes from big, costly, time-intensive research and development departments. These days, the innovation process is different. Big ideas come from business experiments being quickly conducted by small teams at little cost. It’s time to get on board and find out how your business can adapt for the future – before it’s too late!

  • Futurists interested in how the next big idea will emerge
  • Innovators interested in lean and agile systems of creativity
  • Entrepreneurs trying to think outside the box

Michael Schrage is an advisor and consultant on innovative risk management. He is also a research fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management for Digital Business as well as an in-demand speaker on innovation and business experiments.

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The Innovator’s Hypothesis

How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More than Good Ideas

By Michael Schrage
  • Read in 10 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 6 key ideas
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The Innovator’s Hypothesis: How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More than Good Ideas by Michael Schrage
Synopsis

The Innovator’s Hypothesis (2014) shows us how modern innovation no longer comes from big, costly, time-intensive research and development departments. These days, the innovation process is different. Big ideas come from business experiments being quickly conducted by small teams at little cost. It’s time to get on board and find out how your business can adapt for the future – before it’s too late!

Key idea 1 of 6

Business innovation is shifting away from costly research and development to inexpensive experimentation.

True progress is made when people introduce new and novel ideas. Remember what life was like before the telephone was invented? Okay, probably not – but it forever changed the way people communicate.

This kind of world-changing innovation continues to take place; it’s just happening in a different way.

It used to be well-funded research and development (R&D) departments that created innovative ideas and products. These days, however, innovation is coming from businesses that expand upon successful small-scale experiments.

This shift is taking place because the traditional R&D model – a lengthy research phase followed by a team of experts developing an idea from scratch – has proved too complex and costly. This old model can lead to innovation, but it takes massive amounts of analysis and financial assistance.

Just consider how much planning and money went into making a basic prototype for a hybrid car or HD television.

And for every revolutionary product, there are many more ideas that never see the light of day. In fact, an R&D team might spend millions doing market research only to abandon the idea after it tests poorly with consumers.

For these reasons, innovation is now the result of businesses conducting scalable experiments that are inexpensive, simple and less time consuming.

Businesses are moving away from the costly analysis of R&D teams to conduct small-scale experiments that test a business hypothesis, or innovative idea, using a variation of the scientific method.

Take the innovative ideas behind Windows or the Mac, for example: You might think it was one genius idea that launched these products, but, in reality, each was the result of inexpensive experiments, step-by-step tinkering and imaginative prototypes.

This is exactly the kind of innovation that is catching on today: starting out with small-scale, cheap experiments, and then scaling up the development process if the results turn out to be successful.

In the next blink, we’ll take a closer look at this modern method and find out how businesses are conducting these experiments.

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