Monday, April 19, 2010

But GE and TCS are doing something more exciting than fiddling with existing products: they are taking the needs of poor consumers as a starting point and working backwards. Instead of adding ever more bells and whistles, they strip the products down to their bare essentials. [Some] have dubbed this 'reverse innovation.' Others call it 'frugal' or constraint-based' innovation."

"First break all the rules: The charms of frugal innovation," The Economist, April 17, 2010

Frugal innovation joins market opportunity, social need, and environmental context to create new products and services. And: "Frugal innovation is not just about redesigning products; it involves rethinking entire production processes." Examples include smaller ECGs, water filters, 'the little fridge,' more energy efficient wood-burning stoves, and smart phone ATMs. Not surprisingly, China and India are in the lead as frugal innovators.

How might the notion of 'frugal innovation' apply in the U.S. context? For social innovations? In rural or urban areas? I suspect using smart phones may be one of the key, untapped arenas for new forms of social messaging, affordable financial products and services, and coaching.

It would be a good Prize competition to reward viable 'frugal innovations' for low-income communities in the U.S.

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