People talk about reinventing the wheel as if it's a bad thing. But the wheel is over 5,000 years old. Why not reinvent it now?
Our general problem is that we like old frameworks and models we created and we believe they are perfect. We are scared of questioning them. We resist change. But this resistance blocks innovation. Reinventing the wheel can actually solve lots of problems!
Over the years, people have developed frameworks, systems, models, and organizations based on their limited knowledge. These frameworks looked fine at the time. We took them for granted after that and never questioned their validity again. The reason for that is human nature. We hate change. We don't like to fix what's not broken.
But fixing what's not broken is what generates new ideas and results in innovation. In other words, reinventing the wheel is what we should be doing!
Reinventing the wheel is actually pretty simple. There are several steps:
1. Describe the current wheel. List all the assumptions, including the use, the environment, cost, design, etc.
2. Question every assumption. Does this assumption still make sense today?
3. Negate every assumption. Assume this assumption is wrong and pick an alternative solution.
4. Build new assumptions based on results of tasks 2 and 3.
5. Build a new wheel.
Consider the music industry in the early 2000s. When Napster came in, they questioned music CDs. Let's follow the process with them:
1. Assumptions: People want music on CD. People want to listen to music in the car. People use CD players to play music. People want to buy music albums. People like to see cover art from CDs.
2. Question assumptions: Do people really care if music is on CD? Do people always listen to music in the car? Can they use their computers as music players? Do people really need to buy entire albums? Do people care what the cover art of the album looks like?
3. Negate assumptions: People don't care if music is on CD. People don't just listen to music in the car. People can use computers as music players. People don't want to buy full albums; individual songs are okay. People don't care to see the album cover.
4. Solution: Create a product that doesn't require CDs, can use the computer as a music player. Create a model allowing people to get individual songs instead of full albums. Don't show album covers. Resulting product: MP3 files.
Curves reinvented gyms. Southwest reinvented air travel. Phones were reinvented 60 years after the original invention and now have caller IDs, touchtone keypads, can be cordless, or cellular.
In all of these cases, people took products that everyone else took for granted and redesigned them.
1. This is a quick and easy innovation technique. Take an existing product, run through the "questioning assumptions" exercise, and you will see lots of innovation coming out of it. Think about this: Beta tapes were reinvented and became VHS tapes, which were then reinvented into DVDs and then Blue Ray and now streaming videos.
2. Reinvent management the same way. Question every assumption of management. Why do we motivate people? Why organize? Why assign tasks? Why lead? Why use software for project management? Why present in front of audiences? Why do we need money? Should we focus our business on shareholders' interests or those of customers or employees?
1. Identify the wheel you'd like to reinvent. Be as creative as possible.
2. Go through the exercise listed in the solution section.