October 31, 2018

Two top tips for innovation

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Whenever I speak at a conference or other event, I ask the audience who is “innovating”. All hands always go up. But what is “innovation”, apart from a hype and a buzz word?

Let me draw from a few definitions I quite like.

Innovation is staying relevant.

When thinking about innovation, many people and organisations look up to big players like Google and Facebook or disruptive companies like AirBnB and Uber. This is a rather narrow view on innovation. I prefer a broader view, and “staying relevant” offers that.

Innovation is just as much about continuously improving your products and service with small enhancements, helping you deliver a better customer experience each day and stay ahead of your competitors. On the other end of the spectrum, aiming to be “disruptive” or “revolutionary” does not offer much guidance on how to approach innovation.

In both cases, a clear vision and one or more valid customer problems will help you focus your innovation efforts.

Here’s a second definition that I find useful:

Innovation is doing new things in a context of uncertainty.

When innovating, you don’t know up front all the details and answers. You don’t even know all the questions. What business model will work? Do we need this or that feature? Will our technology scale?

This is where a good innovation process offers guidance and structure. It helps you find out key uncertainties early and lets you de-risk your venture.

In my Innovation Canvas workshop, we tackle both innovation challenges. The canvas brings structure to your product or service vision, and brings up key questions and uncertainties. The Think — Shape — Try approach guides you through continuous validation and helps you discover MVPs more quickly. This way, the decision to continue, pivot or quit will be a lot easier to make.

So to summarise, two innovation top tips:

  • Have a tangible vision from which you derive clear customer problems you will solve.
  • Implement an innovation process with clear, regular check points and stick with it. No exceptions or shortcuts allowed!

The combination of both will help you move your innovation efforts into the fast lane and get to tangible results. They bring you from idea to execution and enable you to stop ideas early on if success is not achievable. After all,

Innovation is successfully exploiting new ideas.

— Chris Potts

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