How to Use Innovation as a Crucial Survival Skill?
Innovation is Difficult
Innovation is the backbone that guarantees long-term health of a company. It is the basis on which every project should be built. Without innovation, chances for success are limited.
The down side is that it is not easy to replicate again and again. Continuous innovation is difficult! Below we will elaborate on how innovation projects should be tackled.
Different Levels of Innovation
It is important to understand that there are different levels of innovation, each having distinct influences on you, your organization, society and sometimes even history. The 4 levels of innovation are:
1. INCREMENTAL innovation utilizes your existing technology and increases value to the customer.
2. DISRUPTIVE innovation happens when a new technology or process is applied to a current market.
3. STRUCTURAL innovation occurs when lessons, skills and overall technologies are taken from one industry and applied in another.
4. RADICAL innovation gives birth to new industries and involves creating revolutionary technologies.
Do the Reality Check
Most organizations overshoot their expectations and aspire for radical innovation, but are they really geared for it? Here are the hard truths that will help you clarify:
1. Radical innovation brings extreme uncertainty and risk.
2. It takes many iteration and validation.
3. It requires vast investment.
4. It is based on new business models.
5. It sometimes, actually oftentimes, gets pushback from the market.
Make sure that radical innovation is really what you need before diving into it.
Treat Innovation as a Project
Many may think that innovation happens when a large group is “locked” in a meeting room for an excruciatingly long time spitting out ideas; at the end a direction is selected by consensus (or autocracy) to become the start of product development.
On the contrary, innovation should be looked at as a project that includes multiple brainstorming sessions, iteration, proof-of-concept modeling and fine-tuning. At CRE8, we have set up a rigorous process for innovation projects.
Before starting an innovation project, it is CRUCIAL that your team sets up the right brief. You should identify what the parameters of the project are by asking difficult questions:
1. Why is there a problem?
2. When do problems occur?
3. Who runs into these problems?
4. What problems are they running into?
Innovation Requires a Series of Brainstorming and Iteration
First, start with brainstorming with a small group of people for solutions addressing problems and needs. The team should shoot for quantity and set a goal of at least 50 to 100 ideas – conservative ones, crazy ones, funny ones and great ones. Sometimes a funny idea can transform into a great one too.
Then select around 20 interesting ideas (including the crazy ones) and ask team members to explore the selected ideas a little further for 3 to 4 days by themselves. Use mood boards, scenario sketches plus paper and duct tape to prepare for a second brainstorming.
The updated ideas and visualizations help in sparking creativity during the second brainstorming. By iteration we do not mean duplication! Noteworthy ideas should be documented in an Excel file and the team narrows them down to top 10.
Spend another few days to prototype ideas. They don’t have to be perfect, just a physical manifestation of ideas to answer immediate questions. Remember that the support visuals should be fine-tuned.
In this phase, team members gather again for a brainstorming session where the top 10 ideas with prototypes and visuals are presented. Together you review, provide value-added thinking where possible, and set the final direction for innovation.
Choose Your Innovation Concepts
The final deliverables of an innovation project should not be a single product but rather multiple innovative product ideas that are the basis for product development. Each cutting-edge proposal is supported with concept renderings, scenario sketches and mood boards.
In this article, we guide you through a journey of proper innovation process. Hopefully the insights can help you generate more positive results. If you are interested in practicing further, CRE8 offers customizable innovation seminar and workshop. Just get in touch with us!