A recent article compared Tesla, the innovative electric car company based here in Silicon Valley, with Kandi Technologies, the upstart electric vehicle company in China. It got me to thinking about frames – lateral and vertical. A case of two little guys: one innovating laterally and the other vertically.
Frames, or the act of “re-framing”, are fundamental to innovation leadership. For example, when you choose to design a better light-bulb, you will likely miss the opportunity to cast light in dark places with no electricity, using little more than a soft drink bottle filled with bleached water.
The frame is the box that we’re always trying to think outside of – no matter how creatively we think, how much we open our minds, all ideas ultimately live in boxes of their own – we’ve just reframed.
Being aware of the “boxes” that constrain our thinking is a sure way to get outside them.
There are many ways to reframe. Most common is laterally (remember Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking?) where you change your assumptions about what is needed in a situation. More challenging is vertical – where you change your assumptions about the SYSTEM in which a need is addressed. The latter is seen as the domain of very large and powerful organizations – companies and government – or political revolutionaries.
A recent article I came across compared Tesla, the innovative electric car company based here in Silicon Valley with Kandi Technologies, the upstart electric vehicle company in China. It got me to thinking about frames – lateral and vertical. A case of two little guys: one innovating laterally and the other vertically.
Tesla is a Silicon Valley innovation thoroughbred with outstanding innovation credentials. It has produced a car that is receiving accolades and is challenging the way that cars are sold and bought in the US.
Kandi is a relatively small manufacturer of go-carts, ATVs and motorized tricycles and have only recently begun to venture into electric vehicles. Tesla is pushing the limits of automotive design – from battery technology to drive-train engineering to smart-technologies that enhance all aspects of the car driving experience.
Kandi appears to have very little technological prowess, and is short on capital. Yet they are challenging the very notion of personal transportation. Tesla has re-invented the family sedan with a car that performs better than a Lambourghini and seats 5 comfortably with luggage in the back. It comes in 2 configurations of battery that give a driving range of 200 or 320 miles. Tesla are busy building out a network of technologically advanced charging stations that are gas stations for EV’s.
Kandi has an E-Car that seats 2 with a top speed of 72km/hour and can climb a maximum gradient of 20%. But they’re challenging the definition of personal transportation. They’re not selling the battery pack. And they’re not selling the car – to the user. They’re planning on building large parking garages where a person needing transportation will go to check out a car for as long as they need it, or as long as it has a charge. And while the car is parked in the garage, it will get charged – ready for the next user. Think CityCarShare with hundreds of electric vehicles at each location. Check out this little CAD animation here.
Tesla has reframed the luxury sedan as a high performance vehicle and the fuel supply as a high-tech component. Kandi has reframed the car as public transportation, and the battery as energy utility. Tesla has reframed sideways. Kandi has reframed up.
Clearly, the Kandi model wouldn’t go very far (literally) in the US – for all kinds of cultural and political reasons. In fact a version of their “battery as utility” model has been under development for 5 years by the Israeli company Better Place in partnership with Renault of France and countrywide deployment in Israel and Denmark.
And the Kandi vision is, well, as far as I can see, just an animated CAD model on YouTube. But, you’ve got to admire the pluck of a small company to think big, or actually, up. And who knows! With a dozen or so government contracts and a partnership with China’s largest car manufacturer, they just may pull it off.