Marketing, musings, and the future

3 Things You Can Do Today To Innovate Better

3 Things You Can Do Today To Innovate Better.

There’s a lot of buzz going on out there about innovation. Harvard business articles are dedicated to it, 75% of CEOs say that innovation is at the top of their agendas. Yet companies struggle to innovate and employees complain about the pervasive fear of new ideas. Innovation strategy is not enough. You need nitty gritty tangible actions and tactics to make innovation happen. Here are 3 of my favorites.

1) See the world (and your customer) with new eyes. Stop asking your customers what they want. Asking the average customer what they want is a sure way to create product incrementalism. I do not disparage the importance of incremental improvements to products as product extension can be a smart way to remain competitive or refresh a product. Tide with Bleach probably sells millions of dollars as an example of a product extension. But if you are talking about radical change, surprising differentiation and true innovation, it starts with deep insight. The best way to do this is to go observe people in their everyday lives. Watch where they are inefficient, anxious, frustrated. You will get deep insight into problems and needs that they have that they may not be able to articulate.

2) Create sparks. “Chance” said the scientist Louis Pasteur, “favors the prepared mind.” Likewise, ideas favor the prepared mind. Sit in your cubicle and stare at the same reports all day and chances are you won’t think much beyond them.  Exposure to different disciplines and types of thinking is what prepares a mind for creative thinking. Collaborative groups of diverse groups of people are likely to have the most productive brainstorming session. (A recent paper in Science suggests that diversity and intelligence of the group alone is not enough, how the group engages to ensure all diverse voices are heard is a key factor in output). “Diversity is good” we say….but here’s the secret of why.  Exposure and diversity widen the solution space and lead to more creative solutions.

3) Fail faster. I first heard the phrase “fail faster” from pharmaceutical researchers. The idea was that if they had a number of candidate drugs to test, the sooner they could eliminate the ones that wouldn’t work, the more focus they could put on the ones that did work and get them launched faster. The same phrase should be used for ideas. Kill the bad and the mediocre to focus your time on the great ideas. I have had great success with rough prototyping in doing this. Making a few prototype ideas out of cardboard, string and markers that looks like a kindergartener made it and then sticking in front of people to watch them interact with it…..well, you will know in 2 seconds if the idea will work. And because they are ugly and rough, no one is afraid to tell you the product won’t work. Rough prototypes are the best tool to fail faster. As Edison said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”


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This entry was posted on June 11, 2012 by in Innovation and tagged , , , , .


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