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The Magic of Innovation

May 21, 2014 • Editors' Pick, INNOVATION

By Stefan Thomke and Jason Randal

Why do certain product and service experiences seem to have that undeniable “wow” factor, while others disappoint customers? Perhaps there’s no better place to turn to than the world of magic. Below, Stefan Thomke and Jason Randal consider that leading magicians are constantly under pressure to come up with new “effects” that wow audiences. They have to innovate frequently and rely on a systematic way of doing so.

The late science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once famously said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”1 Clarke, a prescient futurist, was right. New products like the iPhone can indeed seem like magic, and companies have long been trying to unlock the secrets of that wondrous quality. Why do certain product and service experiences seem to have that undeniable “wow” factor, making them all but destined for success, while other items – even those that might boast superior technology and a glut of features – somehow lack that pizzazz, relegating them to languish on store shelves? The difference has less to do with catchy advertising, and everything to do with the innovation process itself.

For a better understanding of that, perhaps there’s no better place to turn to than the world of magic. Consider that the leading professional magicians are constantly under pressure to come up with new “effects” (often under very tight budgets) that will result in a magical, or transformational, customer experience. As such, professional magicians can’t just be innovative on a whim; they must have a systematic way of doing so. In essence, they must do what managers have to do in their organisations every day – derive creative solutions to difficult problems. But how exactly can they (and their organisations) become more innovative and deliver magical product and service experiences that consistently exceed customer expectations?



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