More thoughts on innovating routinely


BWJones, who is a card-carrying member of the Union of Unabashed Appreciators of Gearhead Gnarlyness, snapped this tasty photo above of a downhill mountain biker at work in his bike.  In addition to writing a very cool, extremely gnarly blog, Dr Jones focuses on something called metabolomics.  Fan that I am of all things meta, here’s what that means:

Metabolomics is the analysis of micromolecular networks that form the currencies and currents of life.  Every cell exists in a metabolic N-space where mixtures of intra- and
pericellular micromolecules are shaped by cell-autonomous and
non-cell-autonomous factors. No theory predicts these mixtures, partly
due to the paucity of micromolecular profile data from which a coherent
model could be crafted. Profiling with single-cell resolution in
complex tissues is essential to decoding the interactions between gene
expression and environmental signaling.

Sweet.  Now back to that bike.  Look closely at the pedal area.  Interesting, eh?  It’s missing the normal chainring and gear set.  The story gets even more interesting when you learn that bike is a Honda.  For a few years now, Honda has been evolving a fundamental re-think of the bicycle power transfer mechanism.  As is typical of their "just build it" culture, they’re using racing as the laboratory to push forward the process of iterative information creation, which is a powerful way to innovate whenever you’re at the edge of what’s known.

Honda is a master when it comes to innovating on a routine basis.  Yeah, so I’m a pro-Honda cheerleader — hey, I call ’em like I see ’em.  But from the standpoint of routine innovation, Honda is a soul mate to Google, Apple, and other great innovators.  What Honda shares with Google is the ability to routinely go back to first principles on everything it chooses to work on, no matter the market.  From a philosophical perspective, for example, I see very little difference between GMail and a Honda Ridgeline — both took a product category bereft of innovation and redefined the offering from a blank sheet of paper.  Each was a fairly radicial rethink.  For an example of a milder form of ongoing innovation, look at the parallel between a Honda Odyssey and Google Search.  Both are in the business of doing a mainstream activity — carrying people and search — but the each just do it better thant he competition, and they do so transparently and with great simplicity and elegance, so the big middle of the market loves them.

Oh, and by the way, they’re about to apply the same penchant for first principle innovation to the small jet market.  Honda, that is.  Not Google.  Yet.

1 thought on “More thoughts on innovating routinely

  1. Honda mountain bike with new front cog system

    Diego from metacool posted about this bike today, focussing on it as a symbol of Honda’s innovation and RD principles, i.e. think of something and build it then decide if it works or not, as opposed to think of something

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