Warren Berger is an investigative journalist and author of the book “A More Beautiful Question“. One quote from that book goes as follows:

Q (Questioning) + A (Action) = I (innovation)
Q – A = P (philosophy)

I love this quote, simply because it’s so true. A lot is questioned, said and thought about innovation. But without action, one cannot innovate – only execute ‘thought experiments’. The beauty of innovation lies in its experimentation and learning, and that cannot be done without ‘trying it out in real life’.

Amazon GO’s launch

More often than not, an idea seems perfect on paper, but fails in reality – or least causes new, unforeseen problems. Take, for example, Amazon’s Go introduction in Seattle. A great innovation that allows people to walk in and out of the store without going through an actual check out. Thanks to AI, image recognition and near field communication tech, Amazon knows what you picked up and take out of the store.

Awesome stuff, no more queues! What an efficient way of shopping for your groceries.

However, some days after launching, a problem surfaced. Where the lines inside of the store were gone, the lines outside of the store got longer and longer.

Amazon Go line

Amazon GO’s queues

Could this have been predicted beforehand? Maybe. But you will only know for sure, once you actually launch your new product, service or experience. That’s also the reason why field observations and ethnographic research are such powerful tools: they actually make you experience something rather than ‘guessing’ and hypothesizing about people’s emotions, needs and desires.

Innovation requires action

So – going back to Berger’s quote – innovation requires action, no doubt about that. That’s not say there is no room for philosophy and thought experiments in product development. There surely is, but you won’t come to any viable and feasible solutions without testing the water and executing your ideas in real life.

Just some food for thought.