Six rules every innovative company should follow

Recently named as one of the world’s most innovative companies, Water-Gen has revolutionised the way soldiers and field workers gain access to water by turning air moisture into drinking water. Here CEO and Founder Arye Kohavi explain what drives their innovation...

Innovation arises from wonder and observation in the world. It is identifying gaps or challenges one is facing and designing a state-of-the-art solution that can fill this unanswered need.

At Water-Gen, we identified that military forces or first responders to civilian emergencies/natural disasters have a narrow operation span, mainly due to the limited amount of water they can carry. To bridge this gap, we worked to develop robust, reliable, energetically efficient products which can supply a secure drinking water source at the point-of-use. These solutions include ground and vehicle platforms to man-portable water generation (water-from-air) and purification.

What makes our products so innovative and unlike anything else out there? They can make water from air in even the driest of climates or from the air conditioning run-off water of a vehicle. The water source is available on the spot significantly reducing the logistical burden that is related to convoying water from the warehouses to the end-user.

The innovative drive of Water-Gen is kept alive by keeping the following six points in mind:

1. The biggest enemy of innovation is the question: “Why wasn’t it done before? It does not make sense that other people were so stupid.” You need to pay respect to what products are currently available and understand in-depth the considerations that are the basis to every one of them. While doing this, you need to give your mind the independence to find its own route. Sometimes, your solution to a specific, small problem opens up a new road which you will be the first to walk in.

2. There are two kinds of inventions. One, which relates to inventing new products encompassing the essence and purpose of the new idea, and two, one that relates to the technology that allows these products to occur. There are few people in this world who have these two capabilities. Concentrate on your strength.

3. Technological innovation requires extensive team work. A smart man once told me that “any thing is many things.” Meaning that every element or process in the world holds many internal elements. During the development process, each element or process has many consequences (size, weight, performance, control, etc.) and it is impossible to be aware of them all alone. A multi-disciplinary approach is needed which can only be done through heterogeneous team work.

4. Innovation can even come from an associative word. One day I told our engineers that I wanted to invent a product called ‘Spring’. I wanted the  troops to feel like they were arriving to a spring in the field where they could drink the water. They asked me “what will it do?” I replied that I didn’t know but I’d get back to them in a few days with the specifications. This short conversation brought us our battery operated mobile water purification unit, called, of course, the Spring (right).

5. Innovations occur as a result of one’s relative distance from the day-to-day problems. It arrives from consuming culture, browsing the web, reading materials that are not necessarily related to the subject being discussed, and thoughts about the way of life of the end-user. These require an open mind. As an example, in the course of developing our Atmospheric Water Generator for Vehicles (current model GEN-40V) I drove behind a bus who bled rivers of water from its air conditioner. I suddenly realized that we are building a new product which consumes new energy to make water-from-air, while the water already artificially made by a vehicles air conditioner is spilled on the ground. Thus, our Water Treatment Unit for Vehicles was born, which can be used on military vehicles or public transportation (like trains in India).

6. To be innovative, you need to let go of boundaries. You need to let go of the original purpose of your invention. Once done, you might find any other applications that you originally did not think of. In the case of Water-Gen, we began an operation in water-from-air-units. After some time, we realized that water-from-air equals to drying the air and purifying the water. Isolation of the air drying element allowed us to enter completely new markets where we have a substantial saying like dehumidifiers, air conditioners or even upgrading laundry dryers.

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