How to Predict Future Innovation

December 11, 2006 · Posted in innovation, prediction ·  

When I first started writing this I titled it “How to Predict Future Inventions.” I changed that because inventions don’t really change the world. People have invented thousands of silly things that didn’t and shouldn’t have caught on. Innovation is more than invention. Innovation is satisfying a need or want. Innovation has a human element and the engineering element.

To predict future innovations first figure out what people will want then design ways to satisfy those needs and desires. I hear you saying, “Well, duh! We already do marketing research and have lots of engineers & designers working on new products.”

Notice I didn’t say what people currently want. In the past it might have been good enough to supply current demand but everything is moving so quickly today that by the time you deliver on current demands someone else will have likely already done it and the need is satisfied or the market is so changed that your product has a hard time getting traction.

You might also say, “If I could predict a future innovation I would patent it and be rich.” Well, in future articles I’ll explain why patents often aren’t the correct approach; but, for now, would you like me to give you a patentable future innovation?

People always want more, faster and with less hassle. Until they have the ultimate, their desires steadily progress to the next level of more. If you want to predict future innovations first describe the ultimate.

Since iPods are popular these days and seem to be a big innovation I’ll give you the ultimate innovation on the iPod. First what is an iPod? It’s a way to listen to music. There is nothing new about listening to music. People have been listening to music since the beginning of time. What is the ultimate in listening to music?

The ultimate of anything is,

  • What I want
  • When I want
  • How I want
  • Where I want
  • Who I want it with, for, or from.

Anything that matches all 5 ultimate desires for a particular want, such as listening to music, is the direction all future innovations for that product will head. So that means we can predict the final innovation. Predicting an innovation between now and the then is just a matter of applying current technology to better satisfy one of the 5 ultimate desires.

Are you starting to see how predicting future innovation is possible? Let’s look at the example of listening to music to help bring it into focus and to reveal that patentable future innovation.

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