Three researchers from IMD Business School spent years studying innovation in a wide variety of fields. Through their studies*, they have identified five key elements to bring breakthrough ideas into reality, which they feel complements design thinking, lean start-up, and business model canvas, among other innovation strategies:
*Look through a fresh lens. A key idea here is to talk with customers – to get out of your office and look to see what is going on in your customer’s world. Set aside preconceptions, quit talking in your office echo chamber, and talk with real people – rather than relying on reports.
*Step back to expand your understanding. Sometimes getting away from the front lines can provide this opportunity. Legendary Chef Ferran Adria, is quoted in the article as saying “The pressure to serve every day doesn’t offer the kind of tranquility necessary to create as we would like. The most important thing is to leave time for regeneration.” How can you step back?
*Look for unexpected combinations. Ask questions such as “What if we no longer did what we do now?” Look at your capabilities and try to apply them to other domains. What new products or services might you come up with? In one study, separate groups of carpenters, roofers, and in-line skaters were asked to provide design improvement ideas for the other groups. In each case they came up with better solutions for the field outside their own.
*Test smarter to learn faster. Consistent with the Lean Start-Up methodology, the authors suggest lots of experimentation of small sizes. They recommend a mindset of “testing to improve” – rather than trying to prove you are right.
*Maneuver to avoid being shot down. Take care in how you frame your innovation and respect that the culture you are speaking to may not immediately like it. The Kodak inventor of the digital camera now thinks that naming it “filmless photography” did not work well in a company where everything revolved around film! Watch how you communicate your ideas.
There are many different ways to innovate. Try some of these the next time you and your team are working toward a breakthrough Mission Impact idea and see what you discover!
*“Bring Your Breakthrough Ideas to Life,” Bouquet, C, Barsoux, J-L, & Wade, M. Harvard Business Review, November – December, 2018, pp. 102 – 113.