Unintended Uses of Innovations

Have you ever noticed that many innovations end up being used in ways never contemplated by the inventors. Unintended uses are the first step to finding a pivot that creates opportunities.

telephone

Some interesting examples include:

Invention Original Use Actual Primary Use
Telephone Broadcast audio content to consumers 1:1 communications
Radio 1:1 communication to consumers Broadcast advertising based content to consumers
TV Replace movies Followed the radio market with advertising
Cable Improved picture quality Premium priced content
VCR Record TV shows Purchase/Rent movies

A mistake many innovators make is to fall in love with the original application of their idea and closed to other possible uses. One way to avoid this is to prototype your idea in such a way that your customer can experiment and find their own application for it.

Put these prototypes in front of your customers and observe (empathic design) how they use it. Don't lead. Don't correct them in how to use it “correctly”. Let them self discover how you idea solves a problem they are having.

Try it and you will be amazed what you will find out.

Question: What other inventions can you come up with that became successful when there was unintended uses?

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