You might want your organisation to be thought of as innovative, but simply asking your employees to think outside of the box won’t produce game-changing ideas, notes Lisa Bodell, writing for InnovationManagement.se.
Bodell insists that you need to look at things in a new light if you are to produce unique solutions.
With that in mind, she suggests the following strategies and tactics for taking “an outside-in approach to innovation”, helping you to come up with “unexpected, richer solutions”:
• Kill your own company. Bodell explains: “To get to the most radical ideas, sometimes you have to put yourself in the mindset of competitors. Using the exercise Kill the Company, ask your staff: what would competitors need to do today to put us out of business? After brainstorming, work as a team to identify the biggest threats and prioritise change initiatives.”
• Include “haters” of your product in your brainstorming. You can learn a lot by soliciting feedback from non-customers. Find out why they don’t do business with you and what you could do to change their mind.
• Don’t take yourself too seriously. Bodell observes that an important step towards innovation is realising that you and your company are far from perfect and could be doing things better. The author believes it is useful to take a light-hearted approach to outside-in observation as it can open up the conversation and expose the flaws that customers see.
Seeing the ridiculous side can help identify the areas for improvement, and can also make the innovation process more enjoyable.
• Look for customers’ pain points in your products and services. Once these have been identified, you can solve problems and turn the solutions into selling points.
• Work out how your customers use their time. Try to understand what life is like for your target market. What are their likely movements throughout the day? Who do they spend their time with? What do they talk and think about? Examining these questions will help you understand their needs which are currently unmet.
• Copy good ideas from different industries. Sometimes, the best ideas are out there already, but just need to be adapted to suit your situation. Bodell points out that Henry Ford developed the idea of assembly-line production of motorcars after visiting slaughterhouses using similar techniques.