auto freshener photo Photo by dannymol [CC]

I discovered how difficult it is to buy a simple room air freshener today.

I am thinking something plonko simple – a bottle of liquid or gel, and an opening to let the smell out. What I was faced with was a plethora of unnecessarily complicated, bitsy, and shamefully wasteful “innovative” air fresheners. Wind tunnel streamlined objects with multi-speed fans, batteries, springs, gears, electronics, timers, sensors, microchips, optional accessories, user guides, and of course excessive packaging. All this fuss to make a room smell nicer, just because we can!

The last time I check, good old Brownian motion is still applicable in our universe – there is nothing wrong with a bottle of stuff with a hole on top in terms of performing the required function!

This is a great example of product improvement. It is NOT innovation as the fundamental nature of the product has not changed. What has changed is the superficial looks or the addition of pseudo- or faux-functionality intended to spark short-term interest from an hyper-stimulated market.

I think innovation is about create new (and commercially viable) offerings based either on a brand-new invention (never before seen), or more commonly a new combination or significant variation of existing concepts. In terms of room deodorisers, innovation would be a paint that absorbs bad smells, a spray that removes smell-causing grease and bacteria inside fabrics, and an air conditioner that comes with a removable activated carbon cartridge…

Think about your offerings. Are you innovating or just improving? There is nothing wrong with improving per se, as long as you recognise it offers only a short term advantage, and it can lead to ridiculous waste and silliness.

I think I will stick to cleaning more often instead. The exercise will be good for me…