Imagine this.

You work for a board game manufacturer, and you have been asked to improve the sales of your chess games. They have been slowly falling over the past few years and your boss has asked you to come up with innovative solutions to make it more appealing and increase sales.

How would you approach this innovation challenge?

A lot of people might begin thinking that innovation means finding ways to “improve” the product. People naturally want to innovate by adding value, and this usually means a bias towards adding more.

In this case, what sorts of innovations could we introduce to update chess and make it “better”:

  • Add a new piece which can only move by jumping over another piece?
  • Add a third / fourth different colour to make it a 3-4 player game?
  • Add a rule that every set number of turns, the players switch sides?
  • Add a points system where the winner is not the person who checkmates the king, but instead the person who earns the most points by taking the most opponent pieces?
  • Add a pack of cards next to the chess pieces which randomly provide power-ups to individual pieces?
  • Allow a player to “level up” their pieces over time like in Dungeons & Dragons?
  • Change the design of the pieces to match characters from popular franchises?

These are all ideas, but perhaps this is the wrong way to think about the challenge.

Chess has been around for thousands of years. The rules have been refined over generations until now, into a system which is both easy to learn but complex to master. Each piece serves a specific and valuable purpose.

In a way, the product has been proven to work.

It does not need to be fixed.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

What if the innovation challenge instead is not about changing the product, but things outside of the product?

Using something like the Ten Types of Innovation framework, how could you find different ways of innovating an existing product?

  • How could you innovate the way a community of people play together?
  • How could you innovate how chess fits into a bundle of other games which make them greater together than individually?
  • How could you provide a tailored service to those who want to play chess?
  • How could you innovate the brand of your chess boards with influencers to represent what it means to play your chess set?
  • How could you innovate your internal processes, business models and structures to make chess available in new ways at new price points?
  • How could you innovate the channels to get chess to people who otherwise would not think of playing it?

There are more ways to innovate than just improving the product.

Did you know that scientific evidence shows your creativity decreases over time

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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.