Creating Innovation from Convergent System Differentiators

In the Richardson Book Innovation X, Chapter 4 begins leading the reader through the complex yet fragile system of Convergence. Convergence in the past has been used, yet not heavily defined, by the action of such areas of combining media. Repurposing media for TV, Web, and mobile phones. Richardson uses the example of individuals contributing self-made videos that become a bigger part or a larger advertising campaign.

Here however, Richardson defines convergence as the means of integrating “multiple products (hardware, software, and services) and customer touchpoints to provide functionality, benefits, and customer experience that would be impossible in a stand-alone product.”

In this case an entire ecosystem is needed to house all the components of the system with well-defined touchpoints that create a seamless and delightful user experience. An ecosystem defined by being a collection of products, technologies, and other specific components that together create the functionality of the offering. Touchpoints then are described as being all the points where “customer and company intersect over time, from a customer being aware of the company’s products, to buying and using them.”

Below is a Concept Model describing my depiction of a general generic model for a convergent system.

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However… through all the examples and definitions of seamlessly convergent companies able to operate and integrate multiple elements of technology and product on page 106 of Chapter 4 in the book, Richardson introduces us to the first divergent opportunity for something new and innovative that could potentially break a companies well defined convergent system. The concept of sustainability.

He states that “sustainability is increasingly a competitive differentiator, as well as becoming necessary for regulatory compliance. Knowledge of how to achieve sustainability in a given industry will be a prized capability.

In order to achieve sustainability a company may have to go through a massive series of ecosystem changes, affecting customer touchpoints, and perhaps adding, in the beginning, more work and an actual monetary loss from the company in order to meet the new standards the company may choose to institute to be considered “sustainable”.

So in an effort to derive new an innovative ideas from Richardson’s concept of convergence, sustainability as a game changer immediately gathered my full attention. The first thing to come into mind was the electric car combined with the convergent system of a company like Car2Go. However upon further research Car2Go actually has become aware of this deviation and offers in very few places the infrastructure changes necessary to support a fleet of electric vehicles to support these vehicles both on the consumer and company side.

So what about upping the ante? What about now using Richardson’s suggestion of sustainability often resulting in the combination of multiple companies to create a broader product offering? What about Car2Go and Tesla?

The introduction of a fleet of electric vehicles that are not simply electric vehicles for utility, but now a fleet of high performance on demand vehicles people may just use for a night on the town? Or to get the chance to “test drive a Tesla”. Granted this idea completely changes the entire ecosystem that would even be placed on the current electric car offerings that Car2Go offers.

I unfortunately do not have a definitive solution for how to create a new perfect Ecosystem for something like this to happen but I can imagine that it would begin with first: Convincing the Tesla company that a car share program is not only great for both companies but will boost the image of Car2Go from necessity to luxury, and Tesla to brand evangelicalism by offering a potential not yet customer to absolutely have to have one of these cars one day.

The companies would have to integrate the Tesla recharging station model, as well as offer specialized maintenance, and a higher premium resulting in a completely new customer billing structure. I imagine much of the existing infrastructure of “checking out” your Car2Go would remain in place, but much would change. I would love to see this happen.

Below is a chart of my idea of what could happen when a company like Car2Go decides to change its infrastructure and go “Super Electric”. As you will see the company first begins smaller in its current comfortable state of convergence. But then the idea of becoming sustainable by being more environmentally friendly is introduced and the fragile tower (here expressed as a Jenga game) begins to tumble as things fall away and established touchpoints break as the ecosystem changes.

If and when the company can re-establish a new set of systems, a new convergence, that works with sustainability (and Tesla) they not only lower environmental impact, but expand product offerings, parter with new and exciting technologies and gain a real competitive edge. Click the image for the full resolution and details.

Graphics & Diagrams by Crystal Watson and William Shouse

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