Sunday, November 14, 2010

Green Innovation - Look to Existing Technologies, Products & Services

Stream - Rumney, Vermont. 2010
I was reading the HBR blog, The Conversation this morning and found a great post, "A New Approach to Green Tech Opportunities".  The authors Marc Gruber, James Thompson and Ian MacMillan offer a surprisingly simple yet powerful suggestion for companies and entrepreneurs seeking to come into the "Green Space".  They suggest instead of spending untold resources on R&D on innovating new ideas, products services look first at what your company is already doing for kernels of possibilities.  "Our studies of several hundred technological innovations tell us that we can benefit hugely if we stop equating innovation with new R&D effort, and instead revisit the buried potential of already existing technologies. "

So examine fallow technologies which perhaps dormant now could with a little brainstorming and outside the box thinking, be reapplied in an environmentally beneficial manner, helping both your bottom line and be a positive contribution to the sustainability conversation. If you think about it, following this course also conserves resources beyond time and money already invested in past offerings.  

It taps into the embodied energy which they already contain.  This encompasses the energy involved in sourcing materials, their production, shipping to manufacturing sites, combination with other materials in the manufacturing or R&D process, shipping finished goods to retailers, their usage by consumers, their disposal and degradation into the environment.   In many cases you've already done a huge amount of work and spent tons of money developing an existing product and service why not spend time now evaluating how they might be re-imagined in new and different ways, testing ideas and concepts using these existing assets. 

In of itself, It's a great "Green Message" and its likely to speed up your innovation and R&D cycles immeasurably.  There's almost nothing to lose here and everything to gain. This also might be a fabulous exercise in an off-site retreat whether an all company meeting or key leadership team focus.  Why not make this a workshop topic, explore possibilities together and tap deeply into your creative and entrepreneurial spirit.  You may not come up with a bona fide product or service or new old technology.  But you just might!  This effort could be a seed for cultivating a new direction in your company.  It also would bring the sustainability conversation into the forefront of innovation conversations regardless.  And this is a good thing! 

Thanks Mark, James and Ian for stirring the innovation pot!

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