Can you innovate by making your product or service smaller, much smaller?

Between is a popular app which creates an intimate space for just two people.  It allows a couple to share their own private social network where they send each other sweet messages and exchange photos or songs.  In some ways it is like Facebook for couples.  It is a social network which has reduced the number of friends you can have down to one.

We tend to think that our innovations should always add more to our products offerings; more features, more functions, more choices.  Sometimes there is just too much choice and too many options so offering less can be more attractive.  One of the reasons that texting has become more popular than voice calls is that it is minimal – you can convey your message without all the fuss and bother of social pleasantries and asking each other how you are.  Similarly Twitter has become immensely popular despite (or because of) its restriction to just 140 characters in each message.

Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi banker and economist who developed the concepts of microcredit and microfinance.  Most banks will only make loans of hundreds or thousands of dollars and only to people with good credit ratings.  Yunus’s bank, Grameen, gave tiny loans to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.  In 2006 Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize for this innovation which has transformed social and economic development in Bangladesh and other parts of the developing world.

Unilever built its business in India by selling single-use sachets for popular products like soaps and shampoos.  It has minimized size and price.  Ryanair has built its business by minimizing the service level and price of its offerings.

Take a long hard look at your product or service and ask, ‘What could we minimize here?’   How could you deliver part of what you offer in a tiny way?

Perhaps there is a large market that is waiting for just that.

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Paul Sloane is the author of many books on lateral thinking , creativity and innovation. He speaks and runs corporate master classes on these topics. He was formerly in Sales, Marketing and Executive positions with IBM and software companies.