Want to scale your innovation? Start by mapping your value network
How understanding the players in your game can help you scale successfully
There comes a time in innovation when you realise you might have taken on something a bit too big. No matter how hard you throw yourself into the challenge, creating value from your idea is going to need a little help. Changing the world, or even a small piece of it, takes a lot of push. That’s the moment when you realise you need ‘complementary assets’ – the ‘who else?’ and ‘what else?’ pieces of your innovation jigsaw puzzle.
It's a challenge at the very beginning – how to put together a network of people and resources to bring your idea to life? But it’s an even bigger challenge when it comes to scaling innovation – how to get widespread adoption of your ‘best thing since sliced bread’ innovation.
Something which Otto Rohrwedder, the inventor of sliced bread (or more precisely the machine which enabled it) came to understand. He spent fifteen years working to develop and scale his invention and set up the Mac-Roh Company to launch his great idea. Only to see it arrive with more of a whimper than a bang. The bakers to whom he tried to sell it were underwhelmed. They thought the machine too complex for everyday production, it was bulky and took up precious space – and they weren’t convinced of the need anyway. Teetering close to the edge of bankruptcy he persuaded a local baker, Frank Bench, to invest and install the first machine.
On July 7, 1928, the first loaf of commercially sliced bread was produced by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Missouri and sold under the brand name Kleen Maid. And while bakers had been sceptical of the benefits local families in the mid-West were much more enthusiastic. As a review in the local newspaper (the Constitution Tribune) put it:
“So neat and precise are the slices, and so definitely better than anyone could possibly slice by hand with a bread knife that one realizes instantly that here is a refinement that will receive a hearty and permanent welcome.