The Innovation Framework

Turning Adversity Into Innovation

Design thinking happens at the most unexpected times and innovation is sometimes born out of dire circumstances.

A decade ago, my husband and I were vacationing in the Okanagan—British Columbia’s wine country. It was September. We went apple picking and discovered a delightful treat at the orchard’s store: iced apple cider. While it’s more mainstream now, back then, this delicious elixir was a novelty. Sure, we had tried BC’s famous ice wine, but iced apple cider was new to us. We asked the orchard’s owner (we’ll call him Bob) about this unique product, and he explained it produced more revenue than their core business of apple sales. And the kicker? The invention of iced apple cider was the happy result of a mistake.

The tale goes like this… The orchard was run in a traditional manner for several generations. Bob was the first in his family to attend college and studied Agricultural Sciences at the University of Guelph. He returned home full of ideas on how to tweak the harvest time in order to increase crop yield. Bob assured his parents he had everything well in hand, and sent them off to Hawaii for a long-overdue vacation. And then, disaster struck. The frost came much earlier than anticipated and the crop was destroyed.

At first, Bob panicked. Without the revenue from that year’s harvest, his family would be in financial ruin. Damn, his fancy education! But then Bob, a design thinker in the making, wondered if he could turn lemons into lemonade. Ahem, rather apples into…

Bob sought out his high school friend (we’ll call him Fred) whose parents owned a nearby winery. Bob explained the problem to Fred and the two of them brainstormed options before landing on a potential solution. They wondered, “What if we apply the same technique used in making ice wine to apples?” Fred said he’d be happy to give it a shot, and the rest is history.

Together, they created iced apple cider! Now, technically, iced apple cider originated in Quebec a decade earlier, but they didn’t know that. Often, similar innovation advancements happen in different locations and times independent of one another. Regardless, Bob transformed a potentially disastrous situation into a game-changing advancement for his family’s business.

There is a persistent underlying pressure for all businesses to adapt and perennially innovate. While sometimes progress is the result of misfortune, design thinking can become a common practice companies adopt to continually innovate and evolve. Interested in learning more about how design thinking can help the C-suite uncover better audience insights and develop innovative solutions? Read Evolving The C-Suite with Design Thinking. And stay tuned for future posts where I explore design thinking practices and make them accessible.

Amber Bezahler

B-school Meets D-School

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