…today’s secret…Innovation failures

An innovation is an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new. If it seems new, it’s an innovation.

Dry cleaning was an innovation to us in the early 1800s. It would be an innovation today to the Sentinelese tribe off the coast of India.

Kindergarten, hybrid corn, and family-planning were once innovations. Stand-alone Wal-Mart was once a retail disruptive innovation. Ask any mall.

Not all innovations get ‘diffused’ into society. Take the Dvorak and Colemak keyboards…please!

Most people don’t recognize that their fingers tap out words on a QWERTY computer keyboard, named after the first six keys on the upper rows of letters.

QWERTY has persisted since 1873. It was designed to slow down typists as early typewriter keys would get jammed when two adjoining keys were struck rapidly. The most used letters were separated to avoid this jamming.

On a QWERTY keyboard only about 32% of typing is done on the home row. QWERTY overloads the left hand, which must type 57% of the ordinary copy. Efficient typist’s fingertips travel more than 12 miles a day jumping from row to row, leading to many typographical errors and possible carpal tunnel syndrome.

In 1932 August Dvorak did time-and-motion studies and created a much more efficient keyboard arrangement.

A Dvorak keyboard shifts the emphasis to the stronger right hand in approximately 90% of the public. 70% of the typing is done on the home row. It has multiple advantages over a QWERTY keyboard.

In 2006 the Colemak keyboard was introduced. It rearranged eight letters on the Dvorak keyboard that nobody was using anyway. The Colemak layout is arguably the best layout in terms of efficiency.

Why then are we still typing with a QWERTY keyboard? Answer: Vested interests keep us wed to the 200-year-old layout – manufacturers, sales outlets, typing teachers, and typists themselves.

Innovations don’t sell themselves. Peru failed in getting water boiled in some of it’s peasant villages. It took the British Navy 48 years to adopt citrus fruits as the answer to scurvy. It took a while for the Plain Indians to begin using horses.

But, slow doesn’t mean no.

Organizations who help the marginalized understand that innovations can save time, money, or other resources. It can provide competitive advantages and can even help in raising monies.

Hopefully, your eyes are always open to innovations in your industry. All organizations that explore innovations go through the same five step innovation-decision-process.