Today’s Wednesday Work Wisdom…
Innovation is often discussed in terms of what we know about innovation. But sometimes it is useful to uncover what we don’t know. What are the things that might catch us off guard and ultimately reduce the long-term impact of our innovation efforts?
Some useful questions to ask to are:
- What don’t we know about a particular topic? InnoCentive ran a challenge to identify what researches didn’t know about Type 1 Diabetes. Doing this provided useful insights that improved the chances of finding a cure.
- What do we need to find out? If you are looking to attract customers that are different than your current ones, don’t just ask what you know about them. Identify what you need to learn; what you don’t know.
- What do we need to do in order to uncover what we don’t know? If you don’t know what your customers really need, don’t rely solely on big data. Instead try ethnography. If your customer surveys are giving misleading results, try techniques designed to uncover implicit/subconscious biases. Using different techniques will yield different insights.
- Who do we need to involve that is currently not part of the process? Who can help you uncover what you don’t know you don’t know? If you want to surface potentially disruptive market shifts that can kill your business, partner with a university or futurist. If you want to understand emerging economic shifts, seek out the council of an economist. Insights from experts outside of your company/industry will lead to better innovations.
- What do we need to stop doing in order to free up time to focus on what matters? Don’t get wed to your ideas. Be rigorous in killing anything that does not show potential in order to free up resources. Keep a crew of “devils advocates” who poke holes in your theories.
- Who’s our competition in the future? Assume that your current competitors will not be your biggest threat in the future. Look for disruptive technologies that may make your business irrelevant. Look for competitors in emerging markets that could offer services at a lower cost.
- What demographic changes may blind-side us? Sometimes your biggest competition is not a new company, but a new set of buyer values. For example, if you are an insurance company, your biggest threat may not be a new insurance company. It might be the fact that millennials (the next generation of consumers) are “present moment” focused. Getting them to save, invest in the future, or buy insurance will be increasingly challenging.
This is only a starter list of things that could catch you off guard.
Although you need to focus on what will make innovation a success, don’t forget to identify the questions that might create unexpected roadblocks. Be sure to uncover your blind spots so that you are not blind-sided.
What other questions would you add to this list?