Innovation as a result vs. innovation as a practice.
Before talking about an innovative outcome, companies would be better served understanding and building a robust Practice of Innovation: the art and science of unraveling knotty problems in a way that reveals underlying need and reframes in a unique and robust way that guides and inspires long-term strategic development.
What do I mean by the art and science of unraveling knotty problems?
This means interesting solutions often start from interesting questions. Getting to the nuances of these questions clearly is a challenge for most companies as it often bucks convention wisdom in the organization. Asking the right question is a place most people don’t spend a lot of time on, but it is imperative. As a rule of thumb, that first question asked is not the correct one, it needs to be pulled apart in layers to get to the essence. Sometimes you don’t even know the most interesting question until you get out into the field.
In a way that reveals underlying needs.
This is key: often the surface issue is not the true need. For example, the WebTV service meets the need of letting people have an easy to use service that gives them basic access to internet functionality and e-mail without having to purchase the entire computer system. You plug it into your living room TV and the whole family and surf the web and do e-mail together!! (if this was ever a real need, why WebTV is a marginal idea would be an excellent case study). It does not take much ethnography to see the flaw in this plan for families. Most people want to read their e-mail in private, surfing the web as a group is not unlike trying to read a book as a group, and on top of it, it means that one person is monopolizing, usually, the biggest TV in the house. They attacked the surface need, and ignored that numerous underlying needs that would have radically changed the product/service.
Reframes them in a unique and robust way.
If it’s not a unique insight about the work, who cares? People in the social science end of this game should pat special attention to this. One of the jobs of the anthropologist is to go far past collecting and organizing data, but help your client understand the world in a way nobody else does. If you can’t get there, where is the competitive advantage?
That guides inspires long-term strategic development.
The practice of innovation is not aimed at creating a one-off product or service. Its creating a path or roadmap that others can follow and build on over time.
Blog Disclaimer. I will often go back to entries to make edits or clarify points. If I am changing my point of view, that will be a new entry.