Move time

Many businesses create innovation by simply moving time.

They take time that’s usually spent doing things or waiting, and shift that time to other places in the process or to other people. The result usually at worst still feels original and novel to customers, but more often is a much more efficient and productive process. Here’s a few examples.

Keurig makes those single cup coffee machines. I’ve always been intrigued and now I finally use one at the office. They took the time I used to spend preparing a new filter basket with grounds, collecting water for my pot of coffee and heating the water, and just moved the time.

Now someone else at a factory has to prepare the coffee in a little single serve cup. And now instead of sitting there waiting for the water to heat in my coffee maker just before I want the coffee, the water in most Keurig machines is pre-heated many minutes before I even want coffee, and sits around heated in its reservoir (perfect in an office environment where the machine gets lots of use).

Keurig took time I spent on different parts of the coffee making process and shifted that time to other places and people.

Instagram shifted time. Most photo apps take a photo, and then offer you options afterward of where you want to share your photo. You pick an option and then wait and wait for the upload to occur.

Instragram put that time into the process before you even finish selecting options on your photo. So now, as soon as you take a photo, Instagram starts uploading in the background immediately. As soon as you’re done picking filters and Instagram options, the photo is already mostly uploaded by the time you click save.

Data warehouses moved time. Using just a relational database businesses would spend tons and tons of time just waitiing for reports to run. But a data warehouse allows you to move the time to the front of the process. So now, you can spend time loading your data into this “warehouse”, where it’s being denormalized, a way of putting your data into the most efficient structures you’ve told it you need. The load to a data warehouse can be slow. But now the queries are fast, and business reporting can be in real time.

Moving time becomes an awesome way to explore new innovative ideas. Just look at a process, and imagine ways in which you can move blocks of time and how you’d innovate to make that a reality.

Let’s pick something random from my day as an example to explore.

I wanted to buy a new shirt this weekend. I went to a clothing store and spent a bunch of time having to gaze around a large store looking for what I wanted. Then spent a bunch of time in the dressing room. Damn, need a different size. Put clothes back on. Went back out in the store to find a couple more things. Back to the dressing room. Finally, liked what I found. Waited in line to purchase.

There’s multiple blocks of time here we could fool with moving.

What if dressing room time could be moved. What if we moved that time to be spent at home. What would that mean?

I mean Zappos has effectively done this. You can buy 10 pairs of shoes, try them all on at home and send 9 back when you’ve found the one you like. No extra charge.

But what if a retail store still allowed me to do this? Let me browse, which is still a much more high fidelity experience then shopping online, AND made it easy for me to take 10 shirts home knowing I’m going to return 9 of them. Give customers a way to pick up some kind of scanning device that’s tied to their credit card (NFC seems like good tech for this) that makes it easy to buy lots of clothes quickly. Then give me a drop off area in the store I can come back to within a couple weeks to quickly drop most of them back off.

Sounds like some challenges there. But it also sounds like something more enjoyable for a customer. The fidelity of seeing and touching clothes you want to buy, but the convenience of trying on clothes at home: how does your spouse like how it looks, how does this look with something you already own, etc.

So if your looking for a way to brainstorm ways to innovate something, one great tool to try is to just imagine what it would be like if you could move time for your customers. Take a process and where people spend time, and simply move the blocks to different places to see what you come up with.

P.S. You should get my next post: here.


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