Most of the times we generate innovative ideas, we tend to visualise them as considerable improvements in efficiency and results over the current ideas that exist in the market. This would make a lot of sense if we were what we are not! Or in other words, this would make a lot of sense if we were fully rational agents.
If we were fully rational agents, our innovative coffee-making machine would be a complete success. Not only are we reducing the preparation time to 1 second, but we are making the coffee machine accurately choose for us the flavour or kind of coffee we want to drink, saving us the pain of deciphering our tastes. And on top of that it is giving us the daily news as we enjoy our top-quality caramel macchiato espresso.
Unfortunately for us, we humans are irrational agents, and if we don´t consider this in the design phase of our idea, we would have invested a lot of time and money on R&D, tests and tastings just to find that our coffee-making machine is not compatible with our own irrationality, dooming it to failure.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but “more is not always better”, and unfortunately this concept appears to be non-existent within the innovation culture in Mexico. Before we uncover the fundamental flaw in our hypothetical innovative coffee-making machine, let me tell you a story that will help clarify the concept of “more is not always better”.
Juan is a plumber that worked for my grandparents, then worked for my parents and he is now working with us. Juan has been a plumber for over 40 years and has acquired so much experience and ability that people know him as “the magical” as he is capable of finding and fixing a leak in under 15 minutes. Working with Juan is very enjoyable, as he is punctual and you don’t have to loose the whole day waiting for him to finish the job. However, Juan has told us his life as a plumber is not as enjoyable as we would’ve thought, as he is usually greeted by skeptical and unsatisfied customers when he delivers his job done just 20 minutes after arriving.
On the other hand we have Andres, who is Juan’s brother in law, who jumped into the plumbing business when he saw the ease and elegance of Juan’s work. Naturally, Andres has little experience as a plumber and his work reflects that, as he takes 3 hours to complete what Juan does in 20 minutes. However, life for Andres is way easier, as he is used to receiving tips and his employers are usually happy when Andres finally leaves after fighting with the sink for over 3 hours.
But, why is this happening?
The key is in the FEELINGS that are involved when paying for the work of each of them, as the experience of paying for Juan’s work is completely different from the experience of paying for Andres’s work. Juan is charging us more for a higher quality job, however he is charging us for 20 minutes of work and unfortunately for Juan, WE PAY FOR THE EFFORT WE SEE!!
In the 20 minutes in which Juan applies all his expertise to solve your problem, we can’t really see all the effort that he’s exerting while Andres’s effort is easily visible for us, as he’s taking 3 hours to solve our problem. And if we weren’t aware of Juan’s quality and expertise, we would probably feel scammed or unhappy as we’re paying him for just 20 minutes work… We could’ve fixed that ourselves couldn’t we?
Juan’s case is useful to illustrate that “More is not always better”, as despite the fact that Juan is giving us a considerably better deal, (even though he charges more, he’s making a better job at solving our problem and he is taking less of our time) we feel a bigger sense of justice in paying for Andres’s work, which makes Andres’s work a much better deal to us in our minds!. This is completely irrational! How can we prefer to pay for Andres’s work even though he is giving us less value than Juan?
Now lets think of our coffee-making machine. A coffee that takes one second to make is a considerable improvement in efficiency, but this probably won´t translate into a better coffee drinking experience, as a coffee that takes a second to make is probably not a top-quality coffee in our minds. Technology might give us the tools to make a top-quality coffee that takes a second to make, but if we don´t take the necessary steps to change people’s perceptions, our innovation will have no effect on the coffee drinking experience of our users.
This is why it is imperative for us to understand and embrace the concept of “More is not always Better”. An innovation that does not take into account people’s perceptions and people’s irrational behaviours may find out the harsh way that innovation is not just about technological an efficiency improvements. That is why we believe that innovation in Mexico needs to change, as it is currently focused on efficiency an technology and shies away from studying the human side of problems.