Innovating: So What Is Possible?

Often we forget to frame what we want to really achieve in our innovation activity, instead we simply dive in and start innovating. I believe until we know what solutions we feel we need or the market wants, we will more often than not, end up disappointed in our innovation solutions. Simply generating ideas, for ideas sake, just does not cut it at all.

In recent years our innovation understanding and its management have significantly changed, due to numerous factors that have been happening. These have been advances in technology, methodology or design- thinking and we do need to stop and think about how we could do ‘things’ differently by asking “what is possible?” This should be asked not just on each occasion of an innovation concept design but within the total innovation system we are presently operating under.

Perhaps by asking three critical questions on “what is possible?”  we might produce better innovation answers (and solutions) than in simply not bothering to, at least, scope out the real possibilities, where we can miss so much.

The aim of asking is to reduce the constraints, free up resources, leverage the techniques available, and equally, push the boundaries of your thinking to want to generate “great” innovation, not just the mediocre, incremental stuff, so often produced and labelled “innovative” that we end up doing.

So what is possible 2

Three Critical Questions to Ask when you want to Innovate

We often fail to ask three critical questions before we embark on innovation. They may not eventually fit or work together but they do enable you to see what is possible, what is desirable and what is then that certain dose of business reality we all need to work through. Asking these questions offsets that attitude of simply accepting the established approach from the very beginning..Speed, scale and agility are required and many of our existing innovation practices do not adapt to these increasing demands.

Lets take a look at each of these three questions above.

What are we capable of?

With the incredible array of frameworks, solutions, technical applications and design options, we are becoming far more capable to innovate than ever before. How we engineer and design our solutions will determine much of the ‘ability to innovate’. We are very capable to push our design thinking and quickly turn our conceptual blueprints into a reality, through the smart use of cloud technology alongside being selective in the enterprise software we need, and ensuring we have an innovation backbone of a clear process that can be adapted constantly to the ‘needs’ we require to achieve the best result.

Today nothing has to be rigid or protected, we have to encourage and find a certain freedom to adapt, adjust, pilot and experiment within our innovation ‘system’ as the very solutions we desire are in constant in need of adaption from fresh learning.

The ability to utilize the cloud, use the increasing range of rapid software prototyping, agile principles, and full stack, cloud based platforms we are getting closer to game-changing business technology solutions you are able to develop, build, test and iterate a solution.

For example IBM’s Bluemix provides the ideal DevOps environment (great link BTW) for rapid prototyping, then building, scaling and integrating apps. Bluemix lifts you out of the past practices of working through rather rigid Enterprise solutions and protocols, it rapidly speeds up your innovation search and discover, validate and learn environment and can also scale and integrate.

So we should be asking of ourselves “what are we capable of?” To stay incumbered with a rigid system is simply denying yourself all the possibilities that can be achieved by having a highly adaptive and flexible innovation system. The innovation concepts you work upon are constantly evolving, then so should the systems that support it and this needs a far more ‘hybrid’ approach than ever before.

What is desirable?

“If you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, it’s OK. But you’ve got to shoot for something. A lot of people don’t even shoot.” – Confucius

So do we ever ask ourselves what is truly desirable? So often we just accept compromise is inevitable and start with that position from the very beginning. I would argue strongly we don’t accept that. If we do we fail to ever achieve innovation that is truly a ‘breakthrough’ or ‘disruptive’.

We should have aspirations, as humans we need these. Innovation is no different. When we see a ‘real need’. either from the feed back from clients or spotted by ourselves in the market place or simply conceived in  your ‘minds eye’ we must fight to hold this in any innovation discussions that subsequently take place. Being dogmatic is not the answer but bringing others to ‘seeing the same potential solution’ allows for advancing the initial idea into perhaps, an even greater solution

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Normal Vincent Peale

I know, I’m offering a lot of moon and stars here but it is far better to open up our thinking, lift up our heads, out of immediate solutions and see the possibilities that can become more within our realm of possibility. To really spend some time on the desirable, that aspirational place is where innovation becomes great. I think we should always seek out this desirable point, scope it and shoot for the potential it can offer. We as humans need to work on the aspirational aspects, besides maintaining the existing, it gives us a greater sense of identity, hope and fulfillment.

For instance the human centered design kit offered by Ideo although written principally for the social sector, is  a full-color, 192-page book, the Field Guide that comes with 57 design methods, the key mindsets that underpin how and why IDEO.org believes design can change lives. The concept of human-centered design sets out a counterbalance which puts the human and social imperatives first and foremost. It can help drive a customer focus deep within a corporation and make this focus the heart of value creation.

What is viable?

This is the tough ground to travel through and over. Each business has a need, to grow, to add value, to beat or at least equal competition, or should do. This tough part is we are never starting as equals. Some have ‘abundance’, others have a ‘scarcity’ of resources, of ideas, of seemingly building innovation capabilities that ‘deliver’. We are often required to find (and fight) for the optimal ground for much of what we do and often end up with the imperfect solution from the compromises we have to make.

Innovation is imperfect, we start with certain ideas or concepts and these over time and discussion seem to change shape, sometimes way beyond their original  simplicity or need. We do like to overly complicate. The larger the organization, the more we have to seek out, exchange, find solutions in a very imperfect environment. We hit that ‘certain reality’.

There is a real hope this tough terrain can be traversed differently than in the past.

In the Lean Methodology we are discovering the MVP (minimum viable product) as the process to travel through as we “Build- Measure- Learn” as the feedback loop. The quicker we enter the build stage, designed with the minimum amount of effort and least amount of time, this approach allows us to build prototypes, quickly test them, gauge and learn from them, we can then hopefully pivot into something better. The closer to the needs of the market or client the greater chance of innovation success. We are then moving back towards the desirable to then push harder for our ‘engineered’ solution.

There is equally a growing push to take the principles of minimum viable product (MVP) to a higher level, taking transformational ideas through the same core principles for minimum viable transformation (MVT) of validated learning, rapid prototyping, frugal creativity enabling often the business model to be equally redesigned. The combined thinking of Eric Ries and his “Lean Start up thinking” and Deliottes “Minimum Viable Transformation” is giving us increasing scope to hypothesize, test, learn, adjust and transform.

So our “what is possible” becomes even more aligned

By asking ourselves “what are we capable of?“, alongside “what is desirable?” with the “what is viable” through this MVP / MVT approach I believe the business need have far greater chance of alignment far more with all the potential innovation available.

The “what is viable” becomes richer, more engaging and closer to the two other parts of a solution needed for greater innovation delivery. One where we are capable of designing and engineering far more so as to deliver and have a more desirable end.

By taking the rapid changes occurring in technology (cloud, agile) and design thinking and leveraging the human design and customer need we are bringing a changing business environment of rapid iteration, experiment and prototyping into the very core of our innovation thinking.

These examples are changes where we can be exploiting far more the changing business condition, so as to respond and deliver in better flexible innovating environments. An end so much closer to client and market needs and that leads to a greater potential for growth, surely?

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