Being able to create opportunity and solutions using what you already have gives you greater ability to navigate the ups and downs.
Resourceful innovation is creating new solutions with the things we already have. It is real-time problem solving without being at the mercy of additional funds or materials. It is a future-positive strategy for continual discovery and innovation.
Resourceful innovation is an essential component of the future. We will always have increasing needs and problems to solve, but we won’t always have increasing resources to use in doing so.
The steps outlined in my book This Could… and later revised and tailored further in Six Steps for Resourceful Innovation are tools to discover opportunities others miss, to work with the flow as resources and situations change, and to unlock hidden potential from everything around you. Most important of all, they will give you the ability to unlock the hidden potential of yourself.
It begins with a simple truth: Any type of creation, innovation, or solution requires resources.
Throughout history we’ve been good at increasing our use of resources to meet our increasing needs and desires. Too good perhaps. For decades we’ve witnessed a continuous increase in the consumption of every major natural resource. We are using up the planet’s natural resources at a rate 1.7 times faster than it can regenerate them .
Our previous habit of meeting new needs by using and consuming more resources is no longer a realistic solution. It’s a difficult situation to navigate.
Populations grow and needs grow with them. We and our families grow from infants to children to adults, and along the way, we need more. There’s always a need for more resources, but no guarantee that there will be more available when we need them.
It is essential that we learn how to increase resources without increasing consumption of them. The journey begins by categorizing resources into two types: external and internal.
External resources are the things we use or rely on to do our jobs, meet a challenge, or respond to a need: they are structures, objects, fuel, materials, technology, tools, mechanical assistance, and so on.
There are many types of external resources, but all share one trait: regardless of their origin or form, they are limited.
Natural resources become depleted, physical materials are consumed, mechanical apparatus require energy and fuel and wear out over time. In addition, acquiring external resources almost always involves an expenditure of sorts, either financial or material.
There is a limit to the supply and longevity of external resources and constraints in terms of access—every thing has to reside somewhere. Employing external resources relies on having access to them.
Most importantly, vulnerability and risk increase when there is an over-reliance on external resources to provide solutions. In moments of urgent need external resources can be unpredictable.
Internal resources are the capabilities we acquire over time: experience, knowledge, technical skills, perception, ability, insight, and so on. They are investments we make in ourselves.
Internal resources are not confined by the same limitations as external resources. There are always more abilities and skills to acquire, more insight and experience to be gained.
Most importantly, the value of these two resources changes with their use. External resources decrease in capability and value as they are used and exhausted—physical resources become depleted with use, mechanical resources exhaust with time.
Internal resources, however, increase over time. As they are used, they grow in ability and value. Internal resources provide freedom and agility—they are always with us and ready for use as needed.
As our internal resources increase, so do the capabilities of our external resources. Honing our ability to see external resources in terms of what they could be and could do beyond their current state increases their ability to meet our needs.
By increasing our internal resources, external resources increase their capacity without necessitating an increase in their consumption.