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May 18, 2017 by Shanon Olsen

The Four Boogeymen of Innovation

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Innovation is a desired capability for many of the clients we are working with.  Our clients are looking to see what it takes to create workplaces where their employees are willing to risk, fail fast, build to learn, and keep the customer at the forefront of the experience.  We see teams who are looking to upgrade old systems, create new ways of working, and transform well-established industries, such as utilities, health care and finance.  Industries that have been doing things the same way for a very, very long time. 

This desire, to disrupt old patterns that are firmly planted in deep-seated beliefs, can seem daunting to say the least. Innovation, and the mindset that goes along with it can feel overwhelming, but breaking it down into bite size nuggets not only makes it feel possible, it makes doable. 

So where do we start? How about we start with what we know – identifying the everyday behaviors and beliefs we hold that can get in the way of building an innovative culture. Joe Brown, Director at IDEO, calls them “The Four Boogeymen of Innovation”.

  1. Belief #1 - My idea is better than yours.  We can spend a great deal of time being attached to OUR idea. When it comes to innovation no idea is better than another.  In reality, when generating ideas, you go for quantity over quality. You take every idea, listen to it, acknowledge it, build on it, and keep going. Often the “worst” idea, when built upon by others, results in magic. 

  1. Belief #2 - Talking to customers is scary. Confidential surveys, organized focus groups, and best practices will only get you so far. Gaining understanding and empathy for your customers is at the heart of innovation.  It is where it begins and ends. To truly innovate you need to get out of the office, meet your customer in their world, and seek to understand.

  1. Belief #3 - We already know what they need.  We are experts at solving problems based on our own experiences. We are wired to solve problems, and to say, “I know how to fix this”.  Innovators are rigorous at catching and testing their own assumptions.  Within every great solution resides a pile of untested assumptions. What are you assuming about your customers? What do you think they need? Where have you applied a solution without seeking to understand first?

  1. Belief #4 - We just need to get it done.  The need for a quick fix, a fast insight, and a desire to smooth it over can derail innovation. This way of working leads us to lower the stakes and provide temporary solutions. The presenting problem is not always the right challenge to address. Take some time to be clear about what there is to get done. Don’t sacrifice a new and inspiring outcome for a quick fix.

I imagine these beliefs sound familiar, and this is good news. It is good because all development begins with awareness.  It starts with noticing your own need to have your idea be THE idea. It starts with moving from your world to the customer’s world. It starts with checking your assumptions about what is needed. It starts by be being willing to identify the behaviors that derail innovation and get busy on developing the behaviors that cause it to flourish. 

Putting this work to work:

Curious about how to bring innovation and design thinking principles to your team or organization? 

90 minutes to build awareness, four hours to learn, or two days to apply the methodology, we have a format to fit your needs.

To learn more contact our certified facilitator Shanon Olsen here.

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