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What a simple pencil sharpener can teach you about big ‘I’ Innovation vs. small ‘i’ Innovation

What a simple pencil sharpener can teach you about big ‘I’ Innovation vs. small ‘i’ Innovation
What a simple pencil sharpener can teach you about big ‘I’ Innovation vs. small ‘i’ Innovation

As a parent, with young children, while I go around doing routine stuff, I usually keep a watch on how small and subtle changes are happening in the world of stationery – of pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, rulers, glue sticks, and such mundane stuff. I am childlike when getting hold of these things and often stumped with subtle innovations that are happening in the industry.

#Innovation happens at multiple levels. There are the big ‘I’ innovations that happen once in a while that make headlines and get some multi-million-dollar funding, and the world talks about them to no end. Then there are millions of small ‘i’ innovations that go under the radar, many of which we use and yet one talks about them.

Unlike big Innovations, small innovations happen daily and impact life significantly and make life easier its own small little ways. We seldom discuss them, and in many situations, we do not even observe that innovation, let alone acknowledge or amplify that innovation. Small innovations are under the radar, but I believe, when put together daily, they impact the quality of life and save us time and money significantly.

Here is one such innovation – on a pencil sharpener. As a child and over the last 40 years, we have experienced this is the situation, thousands of times, yes, thousands of times While sharpening a pencil the lead gets stuck at the far end of the sharpener. I have personally spent, and I am sure if you are someone like me who is a millennial generation, we have spent countless minutes,  time trying to use a sharp instrument to pull out the stick lead. If it happens to be a color pencil, the lead is so soft that it gets stuck far more and it is much more difficult to retrieve.

Now, imagine this innovation (in the picture attached). There is a small opening at the far end for the broken lead fall away. A circular design, a little ide than the size of the lead that lets the broken lead automatically fall off. This, I believe, is a phenomenal small ‘I’ innovation.

There is a small opening at the far end for the broken lead fall away. A circular design, a little ide than the size of the lead that lets the broken lead automatically fall off. This, I believe, is a phenomenal small ‘I’ innovation.
There is a small opening at the far end for the broken lead fall away. A circular design, a little ide than the size of the lead that lets the broken lead automatically fall off. This, I believe, is a phenomenal small ‘I’ innovation.

Now about the business value and thus money that could be made by the innovator – Even if the innovator or the product marketer charges ₹2 (or 20c) extra per sharpener vs. ₹5 (or 50c) otherwise, the innovator would be amply rewarded. This does not happen in real life. That small innovator is not able to market that innovation, let alone price it at a premium. The user, on the other end, is unable to comprehend the significant value that innovation brings to them. Imagine, in this case, that extra minute the user has in trying to remove the stuck lead and that would have at least happened 100 times a month. That is a good 2 hour extra for just ₹2 (or 20c).

What are your thoughts?

What do you think about small innovations versus big innovations?

Is there merit in small innovations? How can they be monetized?

Are there any small innovations that you think have gone unnoticed?

Please share in the comments section. I would like to hear from you.

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