Despite the pervasive view that innovation depends on serendipitous inspirations from creative individuals, today’s innovative companies rely on disciplined research and procedures to achieve innovation. These procedures for creativity are fundamentally different from what we typically think of as “procedures,” but they are procedures nonetheless, and they can be learned, used, and adopted by anyone— anyone, at least, who is willing to intelligently take the uncertainty head on to risk and endure failure in the disciplined quest for a brilliant idea.
Villeneuve d’Ascq, France. Isabelle, a new owner of a pair of Adidas 1s, would not surface as an obvious candidate for this shoe according to demographic studies. She does run for exercise, but she thinks of herself not as a runner but as a mom, a tennis player, and an employee of local canner Bonduelle. She is healthy and active and has won and placed in multiple local tennis tournaments, but she has never participated in any competitive running event.
isabelle blends into demographic groups; she could be used as a representative of the average educated 40-year-old married woman. She lives in a suburb of Lille, the second most densely populated city in France. The narrow and windy streets feel like walled corridors, passageways lined by a continuum of homes and storefronts that are partially clogged by cars parked half on the street and half on the sidewalk. Isabelle’s house shares a wall with a small grocer, a convenient neighbor given her standard French penchant for fresh produce.
Not only is the location of her residence typical, she herself is quite representative in terms of household income and religious and political views. Unlike the few and the loud who end up portrayed on the American news, she likes America, not just its movies. Her dual household income is also typical, being ample for comfortable living while not allowing for abundance. She, like most, is careful in her expenditures, careful in her product choices.
Where this typical French woman is unusual is right there—in her product choices. For years, she drove a Dodge Grand Caravan, a great family vehicle but an unusual choice in France. Now she drives a PT Cruiser, for her two girls are older, and the still-roomy but smaller PT Cruiser fits her family’s current needs. Although both of these vehicles arguably make sense as functional purchases, both also distinguish her family from others, which is one of her unstated reasons for choosing them in the first place.
Her real excitement in purchasing these automobiles is that they were cutting-edge products in France. What does not show up in a demographic profile of Isabelle is that she is an early adopter of new products. After all, her home was one of the first in the area to have a DVD player, and before that, she was one of the first few to have a Sony videodisc player. When she bought the Adidas 1s, Isabelle convinced herself that her feet needed them, because in truth they are increasingly sore after her jogs. Her shoes are far more to her than running comfort. She is more excited about these shoes than she would be about similarly superb inserts, because the Adidas 1 running shoes are the first of a new generation of products.