Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Duh! I am coming to believe that the best innovations elicit that response when they reach the public. I have consistently been struck this semester by the simple innovations that have constituted a reimagining of an idea that I thought had reached its pinnacle in development. When I read about the “freedom leg,” I was struck by the simplicity of the technology, concomitant with the leap in thinking about the issue of mobility. FWD Mobility innovated the crutch…the crutch. And why not? Tiny Tim used the same crutch design that you or I would use if we broke our leg today. The freedom leg is a prosthetic leg that augments an injured leg instead of replacing a missing leg…a cell phone can be a cow. The freedom leg offers two significant advantages over the traditional crutch, it allows the user to use his hands, and prevents the leg muscles from atrophying. Clearly this product offers significant value, but I’m wondering if it is a disruptive technology? Will the crutch market scramble to compete with this innovation? I have my doubts, but to me that makes it no less innovative. The Freedom Leg seems like it has the potential to make a lot of money while providing value to customers. The crutch industry is about a $280 million industry, and to carve out a portion of that could still be valuable. It seems that an ocean is not just made red by the fact that there are many competitors, but by the ferocity with which competitors will fight for that market space. The crutch has become such a generic device that is only one of many medical devices produces by the companies that produce them. It doesn’t seem worth their time and investment dollars to compete with this new product. This provides another space for innovation. Not just where competitors don’t exist, but where a product has become so generic that it is ubiquitous.