Rowan Gibson and Four Lenses of Innovation

“The question we need to be constantly asking is: “Are we changing as fast as the world is changing?” Today, it’s all about how fast you can drive strategic renewal at the level of the core business model. And the fuel for renewal is innovation. Remember, Kodak stuck to their vision of photographic film versus digital photography for way too long and paid a heavy price.”

– Rowan Gibson


Rowen Gibson is an expert on radical innovation. He is President of Imagination Bridge – the global innovation consulting firm. He has written a book on innovation called The Four Lenses of Innovation.


In this book he talks about four key business perspectives or “lenses” which he has identified and which will enable a person to discover ground-breaking opportunities for innovation and growth.



The first lens is “Challenge Orthodoxy”. The question one should ask self is “What if the dominant conventions in your field, market, or industry are outdated, unnecessary, or just plain wrong?”

Good examples of those who challenged orthodoxy and used their insights to come up with interesting products are companies like Uber, a taxi company with any taxis or Elon Musk who came up with idea sleek looking electric car (people always have images of ugly looking electric car) and selling that car online.


The second lens is “Harnessing Trends” study trends and look for disruptions. The question one needs to ask here is “Where are the shifts and discontinuities that will, now and in the future, provide the energy you need for a major leap forward?”

One such innovator who benefited immensely by asking this question and then designing a product is Jeff Bezos, who rode e-commerce wave by starting Amazon.


The third lens is that of “Levering Resources”, how you challenge thinking of existing employees, provide them resources to come up with innovative product. The question one needs to ask here is “How can you arrange existing skills and assets into new combinations that add up to more than the sum of their parts?”

One good example is that of Larry Page and Sergy Brin using competencies of Google employees to move from search engine to a hardware, operations system, driverless car company etc.


The fourth lens is that of “Understanding Needs”. The question one needs to ask here is “What are the unmet needs and frustrations that everyone else is simply ignoring?”

Good example here is that of P & G employees staying at homes of customer to know how their products are used.


“You still need a vision, of course. But the horizon has to be much closer now. We no longer have the luxury of thinking in terms of decades. These days, a business model may have a lifetime of five years, three years, two years. Think about how many industries now have a fundamentally broken or at least threatened business model: music publishing, movie distribution, cable TV, advertising, fast food, telecommunications, retail, traditional media publishing, and financial services, to name just a few.”

– Rowan Gibson

These perspectives can then be used to design an innovative product, Rowen talks about an 8 step process to convert insight into products.

  • Frame a challenge and focus on it
  • Research the subject
  • Immerse yourself in the problem
  • Feel the creative frustration of the roadblock
  • Detach and let the problem incubate in your unconscious mind
  • Arrive at an illuminating insight
  • Build the insight into a big idea
  • Validate and execute on the idea.