Kick Innovation Out of the Boardroom

Photo by UTS TaeKwonDo Club

Photo by UTS TaeKwonDo Club

Innovation is serious business. Innovation is no joke. Innovation is a million dollar, top priority, we-cannot-fail-or-we'll-all-be-fired type of initiative, right? Think again. While innovative products, services or ideas often propel their respective companies to glory and a profitable bottom line, innovation doesn't have to be a high-stakes gamble.

In our line of work, we often encounter organizations that possess a breakthrough-or-bust attitude. They come into a project hell-bent to design the "next big thing" or to go down trying. It can be a challenge to take a step back, relax and begin to envision a new service through the eyes of the customer or perhaps even a competitor. Here are a few ways to de-intensify your innovation process and inject some play!

1. Put yourself (and your team) in your customer's shoes. Ethnographic research is a key step in the innovation process. But after the research is done, don't just sit back and read the insights in a report- role play! Get into your customers' heads by imagining how they might react to an idea or a situation.Interviewed Tina, a single, working mother of three? Then how would Tina respond to a healthy meals on-demand service?

  • Act out or draw key events in Tina's day. And when you're not sure, make your best guess based off your research and hunches. If you've done your research properly you should know enough about your participants to have them help you make educated decisions about their needs and their reactions to new concepts.

2. Push your ideas into analogous contexts. Every innovator loves to aspire to be Apple. And why not, Apple is renowned for being a leader in product and service innovation. So, how would Apple solve the problem at hand? What about Southwest, or Whole Foods or Disney? How would that Chinese restaurant down the street do it?

  • Make it a game. What would it look, feel or smell like if Disney designed your solution? Draw it, describe it or build it out of clay. Allow these new frames to run from mild (Apple) to wild (James Bond). Pushing the values and context of other organizations (or even competitors) onto your radar may inspire ideas and solutions you couldn't otherwise imagined.

3. Learn through experiments. What happens when you add baking soda to distilled vinegar? An explosive chemical reaction! Approach your innovation project with the same wide-eyed curiosity you brought to 9th grade Chemistry class.

  • Once you have an assortment of solutions, choose your top three to test through an experiment. Draw it in 2D or build it out in 3D and get it in front of your customers. Watch out for unexpected reactions!

How do you inspire creativity on your team? Let me hear your best tips for inspiring innovation!

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Jessica Dugan

Hi, I'm Jessica. And the first thing you need to know about me is that I'm nosey. If there is something happening around me, I need to know what it is and why it's going on. It is this curiosity to know see, discover and be involved everything that lead me to my career in design research and design strategy. As a design consultant I get the opportunity to dive in and explore new cultures, new people and new problems and then create compelling services that improve the quality of life for us all. When I'm not sticking it into other people's business, you can probably find my nose in a good sci-fi or historical fiction book or stumbling around a museum or other historical landmark. I quite enjoy burritos, whether homemade, store-made, restaurant or delivery and on any given weekend it's safe to assume I'll be downing a delightful Mexican treat while chugging a home-brewed beer made by my husband.