RIBA Insight menu
- Monthly Briefing
- Meet the team
Borrow with pride
If your innovative juices have temporarily dried up, try tapping into someone else’s for a while, says author and speaker Paul Sloane.
"A successful innovation in your business doesn’t need to be an all-new invention."
Doctors realised they had a problem with hypodermic needles. Patients were afraid of them. Children dreaded them. The pain the needles caused was not intense, but it was unpleasant and it dissuaded many people from having important injections. So the doctors asked, “Who else has this problem? Who else injects into people and has solved this problem of pain?” The answer was quickly given. Mosquitoes insert a tiny needle into people and extract blood. They carry the deadly malaria virus. They go about their dreadful work without being felt.
By studying how the mosquito bites, scientists were able to develop a hypodermic needle that patients do not feel because it mimics a mosquito’s proboscis, which is serrated and barely touches the skin.
Mick Pearce is the architect who designed a retail building called the Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe. He wanted to keep the building cool in the hot summers, but was keen to do so using the minimum amount of energy. Pearce studied how termites build their mounds, which remain remarkably cool. He designed a natural cooling system mimicking the workings of a termite nest. The building uses one tenth of the cooling energy requirements of conventional buildings.
The scientific study of nature in order to copy its methods is called ‘mimetics’. Alexander Graham Bell was a practitioner of mimetics. He copied the workings of the human ear when he invented the telephone. The diaphragm in the ear became the diaphragm in the telephone.
A successful innovation in your business does not have to be an all-new invention. It just has to be something new to your business that is beneficial. Maybe everyone in Singapore is doing it, but you are the first in Holland; maybe every consulting firm does it, but yours is the first doctors’ surgery to try it; maybe everyone in IT knows about this, but no-one does in hairdressing; maybe lots of youngsters communicate this way, but you are the first city councillor to do so.
Vodafone uses interesting customer segmentation. Like every other business it segments customers by revenue and margin. But it also segments customers by which ones it can learn the most from. Vodafone identifies the top 20 clients worldwide who are doing the most interesting things with mobile technology. It ensures that senior managers visit these customers and keep abreast of their latest applications and uses. Some of these clients are very small organisations, but Vodafone knows that the ideas they can garner from them are very valuable. Who are your most innovative clients? Do you monitor and track them. Do you keep them close? Could you borrow some of their great ideas?
Learn how your competitors are using NBS Plus to stay one step ahead of the specification curve. Discover more about how you could win specifications and get in front of specifiers at the right time and place.
Author Paul Sloane is an author and leadership speaker on innovation. His books include ‘How to be a Brilliant Thinker’ and ‘The Innovative Leader’. He is also editor of ‘A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing’.
For more information about RIBA Insight advertising and marketing solutions, please complete our short further information form.
Sign up now for our FREE Monthly Briefing, featuring exclusive marketing advice, useful reports and the latest industry news.