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Units Of Innovation

I’m amazed at the profound effect Apple’s iPad has had in the short time since it was introduced — not only as a platform, but as a multiplier of the idea introduced through the iPhone about how to organize and transmit human knowledge in the form of very small programs or “apps.”

Historically, computers were designed to do everything. You would buy this box, and then you would customize it to do what you needed, or buy big, open-ended programs that did all kinds of things.

Now here’s a model in which each program is tiny and designed to do just one thing. Some of those things are profound, and some of them are simply for entertainment. There are dozens of apps, for example, that just turn your several-hundred-dollar device into a flashlight (though, there are certain situations in which that’s what you want, and it’s worth 99 cents to you).

So we’re down to the very minute, very individual level here. Somebody had that idea and said, “I wonder if anybody would be interested in it.” They designed it and sent it off. Apple serves as a clearing-house and a platform. If it sells, it sells, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Quite apart from the technology, there’s a useful concept here for entrepreneurs — this idea of thinking about things in terms of apps. You can break any industry or field of action down into a series of discrete functions, like apps — little units of innovation that do what they’re supposed to do and nothing more.

For one of our clients, JANCOA Janitorial Services, Inc., it was as simple as turning their process for cleaning grout into a whole new company, Grout Wizard.

This seems to me to be where a lot of action is right now: identifying little solutions to common needs and making them widely available to enhance other people’s growing toolboxes of capabilities and processes.

Are there any value-creating functions in your business that could be unbundled, packaged, and made widely available for a small fee?