Innovation is often thought of as the result of groundbreaking new inventions, but the truth is that some of the most revolutionary ideas come from finding new ways to use existing technology.
Nintendo, is a prime example of this approach. When they released the Game Boy in 1989, it wasn't the first portable gaming device on the market, but it was the first to catch on in a big way. Nintendo harnessed the power of "withered technology" and "lateral thinking."
What is Withered Technology
Withered technology refers to mature technology that is cheap and well understood. In the case of the Game Boy, Nintendo used an 8-bit processor and monochrome display that had been around for years, but they found a radical new way to use it by creating portable, pocket-sized gaming. This approach of using existing technology in new and unexpected ways is called lateral thinking, and it's a powerful tool for innovation. The Gameboy went on to be a big success taking portable gaming to the masses. This approach allow them to differentiate the Gameboy in the market place without having to take a chance on new technology.
Nintendo's success with the Game Boy was just the beginning. The company continued to push the boundaries of what was possible with "withered technology" and lateral thinking, paving the way for the Nintendo DS, Wii, and other industry-changing consoles. Nintendo is not an outlier in this approach. There are many other people and companies that have used this way of thinking to make an impact on the world.
Other examples of unlocked value through existing things
Claude Shannon, the father of modern digital communications, revolutionized computing by applying Boolean logic, a concept that had been around for centuries, to the field of electrical engineering. His theories laid the groundwork for the electronic communications networks that are a part of our everyday lives.
In music, hip hop artists used samples of existing songs to create hip-hop music when they had no access instruments and the resources to learn traditional music. Hip-hop expanded the soundscape of the New York music scene and has grown to be the most popular genre in the world.
The takeaway from all of this is that the building blocks for the next big innovation may be right in front of you. It takes creativity and curiosity to unlock their potential, but as these examples show, even "withered technology" can be used to create something truly revolutionary.
Innovation does not always come from new invention. I will admit that I’m curious about new things often look at Product Hunt , Patent Drop and other sources for new technology but it’s great to balance that with an awareness of what exists already and it’s potential. This allows you to harness the power of it all new or old.
Thanks for reading this, it was fun as always to come up with topics to explore. This article was a little different as I used ChatGPT (AI chatbot auto-generative system) to generate the article based off my bullet points and I served as editor and art director. Will continue my AI experiments because I'm curious on the paradox of AI generated content and authenticity . Let me know what you think of the article by DMing me via Twitter , Mastodon or provide feedback below.