Innovation Iceberg

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This piece is a part of a series of 4 inspired by my role as an Innovation Catalyst for Venture Building. There is dual significance to the iceberg analogy in the context of innovation; first because of the invisible yet sizable amount of hard work that goes into Zero to One of Entrepreneurship (as coined by Peter Thiel). The path for creating something truly new, something that is extraordinarily novel, is rife with ambiguity (think of when the Wright brothers dreamt of the first motor-operated airplane, or of the time when the internet was being made, and nothing like it existed before). There are more questions than there are clear answers, multiple different paths to choose from, multiple failures to learn from, and all for good reason. The intangibility associated with this phase of innovation makes it difficult to articulate the true value of an iterative process. Once the web of this initial ambiguity has been untangled, the tangible outcome obscures all the toil involved in the process. All that hard work becomes rather invisible, much like the depth of the iceberg that extends way below the surface of the water and is impossible to gauge from the top. 

The second association is with respect to truly understanding the needs, aspirations, and behavior of the users. The start-up ecosystem is filled with examples of failed products and barring the technological and investment challenges, it is often because they failed to understand either one or all of the above for their users. UX Research methods help in getting to the bottom of these unmet needs or unarticulated wants or behaviors, by constantly asking ‘Why’, much like a therapist till there is no more ‘Why’ that can be answered. This getting deep into the weeds of a problem to be solved and identifying the root cause of the problem, not its symptom, is synonymous with finding the depth of the iceberg. For example, the Titanic sank because the water was filled in the hull, because of an opening in the hull, because the ship hit an iceberg, because the ship didn’t turn sufficiently in time, because the iceberg was spotted too late and it wasn't easy to slow down the speed of the ship. In short, there is a lot that lies beneath the surface and successful innovators recognize the value of getting to this depth.

Original Medium: Mixed Media on Paper.