Innovation or Invention? – Portable Personal Mobility Device

Innovation or Invention? - Portable Personal Mobility DeviceIn writing my article yesterday – Innovation or Invention? – Gyroscopically Stabilized Electric Motorcycle – I came across an interesting video from 2009 of an invention called the U3-X from the research labs at Honda.

While I found the Lit C-1 to be an interesting gadget but unlikely to be widely adopted given the other solutions already available at much better price to performance ratios to the problem it is trying to solve, I am a bit more optimistic about this intriguing design from Honda through a slightly different lens than they might examining its possibilities through.


(Oct 2009)

Here is a second video released along with an announcement of a new installation in France:


(Mar 2012)

Regular readers will know that I feel that innovation is all about:

  • Value Creation
  • Value Access
  • Value Translation

There is no doubt that Honda has created a lot of potential value here. The problem is that they’ve done a really poor job to date with Value Translation. Notice that in both video examples the users are small females. This introduces doubt unconsciously into the viewers. Will this work for a person who is large and/or tall?

Another point that I often highlight is that disruptive innovations require more than explanation, they require education. This is definitely a device that will require a fair amount of education to get people comfortable with the idea and start to see the need. Honda needs to do more education to help with that. They also need to better visualize where the greatest need for this device will be.

For me this is an amazing device because at 10kg (22 lbs) it is a truly portable personal mobility device (if you integrate a strap or two so that people can carry it on their back).

One hour of battery life seems like a big challenge though. But, not if people are using the device in place of crutches or for when they need a break from standing or walking, and don’t need to go far at any one time before plugging in.

I think this device has real potential, but I have no idea what it costs (and that could change my opinion). But for now it is clear it is a solution in search of a problem. So Honda needs to better identify what the problem is that the U3-X is solving before it will gain any traction, and then educate people so that they feel comfortable with it.

Too many companies invent things and feel the need to announce them too early before they find an application where their solution will be more valuable than all existing alternatives. Don’t make this mistake yourself.

But, what do you think? Invention or innovation?

About Braden Kelley

Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B inbound marketing strategies that attract and engage customers, partners, and employees. He is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. Braden has been advising companies on how to increase their revenue and cut their costs since 1996, while living and working in England, Germany, and the United States. Braden earned his MBA from top-rated London Business School.
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