Pretty basic, an incongruity is when there is a difference between how you perceive something and how it actually is. Peter Drucker defines four different incongruities that can serve as sources of innovation: economic realities, reality and assumptions, perceived and actual customer values and expectations, and processes.
Economic Realities If product sales are going up, profits should also be increasing. If they are not, then an economic incongruity exists. This is an excellent opportunity for innovation if you can clearly define a solution, can provide the resources necessary to incorporate the solution, and can accomplish it without a great deal of new knowledge. Basically, if the solution is evident and clearly definable; you can quickly solve a problem and return to proper economic equilibrium.
Reality and Assumptions Many business people wander aimlessly trying to fix things that they perceive to be problems and don’t experience any positive results. This is because they aren’t fixing the real issue. If you have experienced this frustrating situation, what have you done to fix the problem? Drucker suggests that you innovate. Recognize that you are repeatedly trying to improve something without improvement, remember Einstein’s definition of insanity, and try to fix a different problem. You will likely be much more successful and stand the chance to alleviate what was concerning you in the first place.
Customer Values and Expectations How many times can a marketer tell you to listen to your consumer? Well, here it is again. Don’t just assume that you know what the customer values and expects. Listen to the customer and innovate something that is valuable in the marketplace.
Process A process incongruity frequently accompanies the statement, “There must be a better way,” or “This would be great, if only…” We’ll talk in detail about process innovation tomorrow.