Use Cases—The Strange Dance of Invention, Innovation and Discovery

Rolf Muralt

VP Product Management

Every successful innovator discovers, sooner or later, the important role that customers play in the process of innovation. I’m not talking about innovation being market driven — most interesting innovation begins with some form of technical invention. For the last 50 years, “Moore’s Law” in semiconductors has revolutionized all things electronic or electromechanical, and created an ongoing opportunity for invention as electronics get cheaper and programming replaces mechanism. Invention is typically done by technologists and engineers who see how to use new, technology-driven components and systems. But that’s just the beginning point.

It turns out most inventors aren’t very good at foreseeing exactly how their invention will deliver business value to customers, and that’s an important issue because that’s the ultimate value in the invention, and because every startup wants to focus on the high-value, repeatable applications as soon as possible for efficiency and revenue acceleration. Inventors invent things, but it’s the market — customers — that typically discover where the invention delivers the greatest value to a customer who buys it. The question here is how to accelerate and nurture that process — how can a vendor leverage potential customers to accelerate understanding the value in an invention?

And now to the interesting “chicken and egg” part of the problem: what does it take for prospective customers to understand an invention well enough, without being technologists or futurists, to see where it might be valuable to the specific problem they have that the vendor may not understand or even be aware of? How do you prime the pump and get this virtuous circle rotating?

That leads us finally to use cases. Everyone loves a good story. Narratives are an important part of how we communicate every day, and with new technology, for most people, stories are far more informative and suggestive than architectures, technology specification or “feeds and speeds.” If a narrative gets close enough, someone with a quite different problem might think, “Gee that’s interesting. I wonder if it could do what I need,” and have discovered a new value proposition.

So that’s one of the reasons why we’re going to start to publish some use cases here. It’s not just to proudly announce interesting new partners. It’s not just in the case that someone has a similar problem. We’re hoping to provoke insights — we’re hoping that a reader will see one use case and wonder if it might work for their problem as well.

If it does, you know how to contact us.