A baby can play soccer, but not volleyball
Could you make a sport simple enough for a baby to play?
Once a baby can walk, it can begin to “play” sports in a simplified form of what grown ups do.
For example, running is a simplified version of the marathon.
Paddling in a pool is a simplified version of swimming in an Olympic pool.
And even soccer is possible. [I would call it football, but that might confuse any American readers here…]
If a baby kicks a football, the ball will move forward a bit on the ground and then stop.
Gravity keeps the ball at a height where the baby can interact with it.
While it might not be the same pace as how grownups play, the baby can still begin to practice.
However, some sports make it impossible to even start practising until someone is significantly older, due to either the complexity, physics or coordination required.
For example, in volleyball the ball will constantly be falling towards you from above, and it requires a certain amount of not only hand-eye-body-foot coordination to get your arms ready to receive a falling ball, but a soft touch to pass it back into the air for another player to touch next.
In basketball, the weight of a standard basketball (around 600 grams) and hoop height (around 3 meters) means that children don’t have the necessary strength to even throw the ball the required height to make a basket.
If you don’t complete any of the actions listed above, you or your team loses the game.
Those are the rules.
And sports like cricket and American Football have long, complex rule books which take a long time to learn.
As a result, even if they wanted to, babies could not play these sports by the same rules and on the same fields as adults do.
They just don’t have the current capabilities to do it like adults do, and there is a significant amount of practice as well as muscle growth required to perform according to the basic rules.
Nick, what does this have to do with innovation?
Think of your potential customers, who you are trying to sell on your new innovative product / idea.
Some of them might have the experience in the field necessary to be treated like the adults in the metaphor above.
But some of these potential customers don’t have the experience or capabilities of anything similar to your innovation, and so are more similar to the babies.
Even if they wanted to, there are things making the current solutions in the market too complex or resource intensive for them to be able to use.
While it might be easy for you and your team, and maybe even your current customers to use, a lot of potential customers just do not have the same background or experience as you.
In many cases, your customer is not a company selling a similar product. It is people not using any of the options available, because they don’t feel like they need or want them.
So if you want to reach these new customers, you have two options:
- Make the innovation so simple to use, that even a complete novice can actually use it (by radically simplifying)
- Change the rules which are used in the Adult (Full-featured) version of the product, so that even a novice can begin training the muscles with the simple (Baby) version of the tool
The International Volleyball Federation learned that standard volleyball rules and equipment (like the height of a net) were too complex for children, and so they could not play.
So they created a game called “Mini-Volleyball”, with lighter balls, lower nets and simpler rules which allow mistakes without losing the round.
This way, children under the age of 10 can begin to learn the game, develop the basic skills, and then take these skills to the next level when they grow and learn adult volleyball.
So think, how could you take your current offering, or your next innovation, and make it possible for even a “baby customer” to use?