Exercises in Innovation #2: Call a meeting to spotlight the outliers

You can involve your entire work team in the next thought experiment.

Gather the team on a Tuesday or Friday afternoon. You can have remote teams call in. Invite every team member to describe the most unusual sight or event they witnessed on the way to work that morning. What matters is not what they saw, but the discussions that follow. This exercise awakens their innate curiosity and encourages the entire organization to start thinking like anthropologists.

What did they see, in detail? Why did that happen? What does that behavior imply? Pay attention to outliers and take notes because every outlier contains a lesson.

Curiosity and careful note-taking are perhaps the most critical business skills your company can possess. If you don’t possess it collectively, you can train your way there, but treat this with all of the seriousness it deserves.

You may need to prompt them with ideas to start the flow of observations. Here are some suggestions to get the ideation process started.

Inversion – take a common event and discuss what if it had happened another way. If your team saw people walking their dogs, what would it mean to say that the dogs were walking their people?

Integration – integrate offers with other offers. If people were shopping for services in a variety of locations, what kind of location could offer everything they need?

Extension – pushing the boundaries of the offer or the audience. If a company offers services to legal professionals, what would they need to do to offer equivalent service to the education industry?

Addition – including elements from other concepts. If the team saw food delivery drivers, what if those drivers came to the customer’s home and prepared the food there?

Subtraction – reducing or eliminating essential elements. Team members might notice that people were upset waiting for stoplights.  What would need to happen to transportation systems for all stoplights to go away for good?

Translation – applying lessons from one field into another. The Uber-ization of everything is a good example of applying the concept of on-demand, app-controlled services across all industries.

Grafting – reapplying an entire component from another system. Virtual currency like ApplePay has been adopted at many retail locations. What would it look like for there to be an ApplePay for enterprise supply chains?

Exaggeration – pushing a concept beyond its logical limit. Bicyclists weave in and out of traffic on the way. What would happen if they could travel at extreme speed in AI-controlled capsules?

These represent merely a sample of the ideation techniques available. Once dialog begins, encourage it and try to capture as many new ideas as possible, especially related to observations of outliers and what that could mean.

Look out for exercise #3.

Ps. Download the complete paper here Ds.