Do Your Ideas Pass the 2 Question Test?

Soccket-lamps1What if you created a product or service so cool, so innovative that it actually changed an entire industry? Two companies set out to do just that. One succeeded. One failed. What can we learn from each that could set you and your company on a whole new path to profitable success?

Avigilon Corporation, “sees the future” and the future looks profitable. Avigilon is a leader in high-definition (HD) surveillance solutions. They recently acquired VideoIQ, Inc. because of their ability to use technology for real time responses to surveillance. For example, suppose you drove to work one morning and found your business burglarized. The typical sequence of events is calling the police, reviewing tapes wherein you see the rascals carrying off all your computers, filing insurance claims and then never getting your computers back or finding the burglars. OR…you can now use VideoIQ technology that will alert you, in real time, that the burglary is taking place and police can show up to arrest the scoundrels…in real time.

VideoIQ’s B.R.A.I.N. (aka Bootstrap Response Active Intelligence Node/Network) is a technology that enables surveillance cameras to “see” and alert someone when something is outside of the “norm”. VideoIQ’s co-founder and CTO, Dr. Mahesh Saptharishi first worked with robots to help the robots understand their environment and act on this understanding. Mahesh connected the human brain’s ability to see and respond with a robot’s ability to interpret data and act on it as well. He then transferred this amazing technology to a company’s security systems. Not only does this kind of technology wow… it works!

Not every endeavor is so successful. Soccket is a soccer ball, produced by Uncharted Play, containing a mechanism inside that converts kinetic energy into electric power. According to its inventors, the ball stores enough energy after just thirty minutes of play that it can sustain an LED lamp for three hours so a child might read or study at night. Developed by Harvard grads to be distributed globally to impoverished villages, the toy has received tremendous financial backing as well as celebrity endorsements. Wow! In fact, this ball “wowed” so many that it raised over $92,000 on Kickstarter in 2013.

The only problem? It doesn’t work. What was promised to last 3 years, might last 3 hours, a week, or a month if you’re really lucky (and perhaps a good kicker) before it falls apart.

No one tested the viability nor even asked if this product would truly achieve something good. So while it wows in theory, the bigger wow, is that for a fraction of the price of a Soccket ball, a charity could donate funds directly to these same poor rural villages and hook them up to the power grid. For the $60.00 it costs to provide a Soccket ball, a family in Mexico can be hooked up to the electric grid for years.

Is it okay to fail? Absolutely. We learn from failure, but when the Harvard grads were interviewed by journalist Jennifer Collins, they didn’t get excited about learning from their mistakes they got defensive. And said they were being attacked.

While Uncharted Play and Avigilon continue to work on their products, both companies serve as prime examples of the two questions we all must ask when developing a new product or service. Does it Wow? and Does it Work? Only when a company can sincerely and truthfully answer “Yes!” to both questions can innovation offer meaningful solutions to others.

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