The Future of Innovation Is Exciting, It Is Micro

By Space and Lemon Innovations, Laurent Burdin, Founder

We are entering a new era of innovation. An era of micro innovation where calibration of innovations is small, rather than macro, over-dimensioned, over-ambitious and stopped just before roll-out. With micro innovation the challenge, the scope is small enough to be actionable, excitable because less is at stake. Micro innovation instead of macro innovation, in the digital sphere and anywhere else.

Something went wrong.

Let’s be honest, something went wrong “in the land of innovations”. Everyone in the business witnessed it: a lot of innovation initiatives have failed, and many stakeholders come out frustrated. From 2015 to 2021, very ambitious programmes were started. Many of them failed — well, they did generate a lot of ideas, work and products, but “reality check” shows that most of them never were produced, rolled-out or scaled. Something went wrong. Why? Too big, too ambitious, over-sized, too exaggerated in presentation, too far from core. Too much was at stake, it got stopped.

During this past era, the perspective for innovations was based on trends much too far away in time — plus 7 years, plus 10 years. It makes great keynotes, but not a real pragmatic solution.

Pandemic brings a new attitude.

During pandemic times, the attitude towards innovation was confusing, to say the least. Every company concentrated on its core business, not on new revenue streams, on big innovation initiatives. The new attitude means to concentrate on the core, in any industry. As a result, side projects are being stopped, not only for crisis reasons but also for good reasons. Too vague, too large, too costly, too far from core. A healthy step. However, innovations (Oxford Dictionary: “Introduction of new things, ideas or ways of doing things”) are necessary to drive economies, businesses and people. An era comes to an end.

The future is micro.

A new era of innovation is ahead of us. An era of micro innovation where scope is micro, rather than macro, over-dimensioned, over-ambitious.

Indeed, when less is at stake the chance to produce an innovation dramatically increases. We are pleading for a new attitude towards innovation: micro. Smaller scope, smaller goal, smaller time frame, smaller investment. A new product can grow from one test to another. Already today many initiatives are micro. Micro shops (online and brick-and-mortar) with original offers. Micro brands, in particular the exploding number of DTC brands (Direct-To-Consumer, a movement started in the US). Micro product novelty (e.g. a wooden credit card at sustainability bank Tomorrow).

Fast delivery (grocery delivery within 10 minutes in urban areas) is a fascinating trend and the place with the largest investments right now in digital. Nowhere any macro innovation to be found, but the addition of micro innovations. Deliver with e-bikes within a close neighbourhood, calculation of the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival), transparent assortment management, alternative offers.

FinTechs have also grown with additions of micro-innovations: pay-day in advance, parental control, saving places, fractional shares, etc. None of them big, but the addition of them makes banking at once interesting again, like London challenger bank Starling Bank.

Micro, what?

Micro can be defined with a feature scope, a budget (under €100.000) and a time allocation (under 3 months). One can navigate from one project to another, testing and rolling out. Then creating a new micro project again. Let’s do an exercise: put the word “micro” as a prefix to what we do: micro meeting, micro budget, micro brand, micro event, micro service, micro project… micro innovation.

Micro innovations can be done by any team, any department, any start-up, any company. By anyone. Not necessary by a “speed boat” parallel to the core business, it is not only about speed. It’s about scope.

Inventing simpler methods

Going for micro innovation makes sense and resonates to the moment. New ways of doing things will be required though. We’ll have to get over with methodologies like “Design Thinking” and “Business Model Canvas”. Design Thinking has reigned in in the past 7 years, bringing low results versus the high effort. This dominant model too often concentrated on asking users what they want in long repetitive sequences, bringing zero-spectacular, obvious results. The Business Model Canvas is a great framework for a business model, for a business school, but too comprehensive.

New canvases need to be invented, more flexible, easier to access. We are presently testing a customised new canvas, we called it “Mosaic Canvas” because it is composed with amovible tiles (reference: article to follow in Summer 2021).

Exciting digital innovation anew.

After a dull time of pandemic, home office routine and economic crisis, now is the time to ignite innovation again, avoiding the mistakes of the past. The over-dose of ambition, dimension, representation, boasting. Just a new idea, a new thing, a new product — smartly designed, modestly dimensioned. And the excitement will come back.

We’ll report very regularly about micro innovations, about this experiment. We are also working on “The 100 Micro Innovations” an open-source site where one can find a multitude of inspiration for micro innovations. Let’s start to talk about micro innovations, to build many micro innovations that one can test, launch and scale.

The future of innovation is micro. #microinnovation.

PS. In general we are entering a world of micro. Micro innovation but many aspects of business and life can be declinated in micro. Micro fun, micro meditation, micro novel, micro podcast (oh yes, they are all too long anyway), micro feedback, micro appreciation, micro culture, etc. Micro is in the air, for innovation as well.

Author: Laurent Burdin is founder of the innovation and trend agency Space and Lemon Innovations, in Hamburg and Berlin. Launched in 2016, Space and Lemon Innovations reignites the attitude towards innovation — from macro to micro. More actionable, more excitable.

Space and Lemon Innovations. Innovation agency for a new era of innovation, micro innovation. ✱Trend and innovation scouting ✱Concept/development