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Exploding Creativity

April 26th, 2010 at 9:33 am

Frugal Innovation

Here’s an article on “frugal innovation” — a new term for me — in the April 17-23, 2010, issue of The Economist magazine: First break all the rules, the charms of frugal innovation.

It’s an interesting article on some of the innovations in emerging markets, particularly China and India. Reading the article, however, seemed more like an exercise in SCAMPER. For example:

  • Combination: “Nokia’s cheapest mobile handsets come equipped with flashlights (because of frequent power cuts), multiple phone books (because they often have several different users), rubberised key pads and menus in several different languages.”
  • Put to Other Uses: “… use existing technology in imaginative new ways. TCS is looking at using mobile phones to connect television sets to the internet. Personal computers are still relatively rare in India but televisions are ubiquitous.”
  • Put to Other Uses: “… apply mass-production techniques in new and unexpected areas such as health care.”
  • Adaptation: “… his most important contribution to medicine is not his surgical skill but his determination to make this huge industry more efficient by applying Henry Ford’s management principles.”
  • Substitution: “… BYD has radically reduced the price of expensive lithium-ion batteries by using less costly raw materials and learning how to make them at ambient temperatures rather than in expensively heated “dry rooms”.”
  • Combination: “Some of the more exotic phones are designed to look like watches or packets of cigarettes (they even have room for a few real ones) and often have striking new features, such as solar chargers, superloud speakers, telephoto lenses or ultraviolet lights that make it easier to detect forged currency.”


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