One important aspect of achieving grounded innovation is to manage the two dimensions of inquiry and invention. But how do you go about making inquiry about a product category that does not even exist yet? Sara Ljungblad developed the Transfer Scenarios method to do exactly that! The idea is that you look at an existing practice that is in some way analogous to the technology that you are interested in. You can find more about Transfer Scenarios in our article Transfer Scenarios: Grounding Innovation with Marginal Practices, and in Sara's Ph.D. thesis, Beyond Users: Grounding Technology in Experience.
For instance, in one project we were developing new forms of autonomous agents and robots. To get around peoples' preconceived notions of what a robot can do, we did a study on owners of unusual pets, such as snakes, spiders and lizards. These people have a very strong relationship to their pets, event though the animals themselves have a fairly low cognitive ability - much like robots! The idea was not to build new robotic pets, but to capture the essential qualities of the relationship and base new user experiences on that. For instance, a number of users were interested in developing new forms of patterns on lizards, and in interacting with other owners. This led to the idea of GlowBots, developed by Mattias Jacobsson and others. These are small robots that autonomously develop colorful and dynamic patterns, which in turn influence the robots around them. Users can interact with the robots by taking them up and shaking them! Shake the robot up and down to show that you like the pattern it is displaying; then it will set off to try and spread it to other robots. But if you shake it sideways, the robot will abandon the pattern it is currently working on and generate a new one, hopefully more pleasing. GlowBots generated a lot of press and were exhibited at several major events, including SIGGRAPH and Wired NextFest. The full story of GlowBots can be found in the article GlowBots: Designing and Implementing Engaging Human-Robot Interaction.