The insight that sparks innovation appears to occur randomly. After all, the iconic shorthand for innovation is a light bulb, implying that ideas come from sudden flashes of inspiration. While such flashes are surely good things, it is hard to depend on them, particularly if you are at a company that needs to introduce a steady stream of innovative ideas.
Steve Jobs once said, “It is not the customer’s job to know what they want.” That’s absolutely right. It is yours. And don’t think you don’t have a customer because you work in an internal support function or for a company that provides components or services. Everyone has a customer, whether it is a purchaser, user, or co-worker….
- GET TO CONTEXT
- The consumer is boss.
- One of the dirty little secrets of innovation is that even the most well-intentioned people lie. They say they will do things they won’t, and purport to have interest in things they don’t. Spend time in the market so that you can know the customer better than they know themselves.
- How to get started: Detail the amount of time you spent with customers or key stakeholders in the last three months. Find a way to triple that time.
- WATCH FOR WORKAROUNDS
- FOCUS ON NONCONSUMERS
· Carefully studying current and potential customers often highlights workarounds that customers create to make up for the limitations of existing solutions. Drilling into these compensating behaviors can help to unearth innovation opportunities
· How to get started: Lead a round-table discussion to identify compensating behaviors that your company’s solution forces customers to follow.
· Apple, Southwest, Ikea, Nintendo, and many more companies trace their success to unlocking demand that was pent up because existing solutions were too expensive or complicated
- It takes some mental discipline to look to markets that don’t exist. But that discipline can pay off in the form of growth opportunities that are hidden in plain sight.
- How to get started: Write down five things that a coworker or friend can only do by relying on an expert or going to a central location. Think about ideas that would let these people do it themselves.
…Spending time with customers, watching for workarounds, and exploring nonconsumption helps to highlight exciting innovation opportunities. Of course, there’s more to innovation than the spark of an insight. Innovators have to translate that insight into an idea that gets the innovation job done and delivers against whatever metric matters (revenues, profits, process performance, employee satisfaction, and so on). But the right starting point makes the journey infinitely easily…