Sometimes it is the little innovations that make the big innovations possible. In the video below is a demonstration of a power station that creates electricity by harnessing wave energy and turning it into electricity. What I found interesting about the station was not the station in itself, but the little innovation that made it possible. They had to develop a system so the blades would spin in the same direction when the waves came in and also when the waves went out in the opposite direction. This smaller minor innovation made the bigger one possible.
The Wright Brothers had to do something similar. They did not anticipate that they would have to do much to develop their propeller. They could just borrow from the propellers used in ships. But unfortunately it did not work that way. The designs from ships gave them a start, but they had to create a propeller that was driven by the air, but was stable. It was this more minor innovation that made the major innovation of flight possible.
Edison had a goal at his invention factory that his teams create a minor invention every ten days and a major one every six months. We often talk about the big innovations because they have more pizazz, but the minor innovations that we may not even think about can make all the difference. So, if you are struggling with catching the wave of innovation perhaps it is not time to focus on the big innovation, success may be in thinking small.
The blog was originally posted March 4, 2016