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In an Excerpt From The Book, INNOVATING INNOVATION, SCARCITY BREEDS CREATIVITY the Hippo Roller has been featured in Chapter 5 (Page 90) – “HOW ENTREPRENEURS THINK.” Read an excerpt from the chapter below:

Most of the time the best ideas are built in a state of scarcity. Not having access to everything forces you to rely on creativity, and the truly creative solutions are the ones that are more likely to explode. Whenever I travel, I look for the scrappy ways that people are responding to change in the world. The innovative solutions that people come up with on a shoestring budget are incredibly impressive.

The scarcity of resources was the environment that an amazing innovation called the Hippo Roller was created. Over 2.1 billion people suffer from a scarcity of safe drinking water. In Africa alone, one in three people lack access to the most basic of water sources such as wells or taps. Women and children are forced to carry five-gallon buckets of water, weighing forty-one pounds, balanced on their heads for hours a day. Then the most amazing, and in retrospect obvious, solution was created.

Two innovative minds took a 24-gallon barrel, placed it on its side and attached a handle for steering. This incredible innovation now enabled 24 gallons of water to be “rolled” by a single person, over rough terrain, quickly and easily. This idea was brought to life, not by huge NGOs or by a large team sponsored with millions from a corporation.

It was created by two people, with scarce resources, who saw the problem firsthand and wanted to help. Like all great innovations the Hippo Roller, once released into the wild, was further innovated on by its customers.

The Hippo Roller is now also used as a cart to carry goods, a roadside stand to sell goods, and a stretcher to carry the injured. Once people saw its utility, they expanded even further. The Hippo Roller is also used as a firefighting tool and as a small-scale garden irrigator through the inclusion of an innovative hand-pump that requires no external power.

A whole ecosystem of innovation not created through abundance, but from scarcity The Hippo Roller is the perfect model of innovation in scarcity. What I love about it is the collaborative nature that sprung up because of it—entrepreneurs sharing ideas on how to leverage it with other entrepreneurs.

The end-users did not let lack of time, talent, or treasure stop them from solving problems beyond that of carrying water. As a community of like-minded, scrappy entrepreneurs, they expanded the Hippo Roller into a variety of other uses.

No long meetings searching for consensus. No highly skilled technical staff. No expensive multi-variant testing and focus groups. The creators and users of the Hippo Roller had problems to solve. Because they had no choice but to operate in scarcity, they tapped into their creativity and just solved the problem.

No corporate MBA’s were needed to make it a life-changing success. We often have too many choices. Abundance creates decadence. Corporations have so many resources in terms of time, talent, and treasure. But if you have too much of any one of those things, you get mediocrity. I have seen corporate innovation teams focus so much on their abundance that they choose to make their teams bigger, or believe they have all the time in the world, or spend insane amounts of money all because they feel they can. The decadence I see within corporate innovation teams is truly remarkable.

In my experience there’s a magic ratio of time, talent, and treasure, and it leans more towards scarcity than abundance. So, the fewer people involved, the fewer dollars available, and a finite amount of time will typically create better, more topical ideas to the evolution that’s happening.

The corporate mindset is to always add more. They want to spend more time on a project, more time constructing a plan packed with more details, and lamenting how they need more funding to be successful. But the corporate culture of abundance gets in the way of true innovation.

Companies who want to succeed at innovation should spend less time planning and learn to move faster with less money. They should embrace the entrepreneur philosophy, and learn how to be scrappy. When they do, things start to happen more quickly, and their ideas improve as well….

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