Big dreams often grow from the smallest of seeds, invisible to all but the most careful observers. Bergman wrote, “My films grow like a snowball, very gradually from a single flake of snow. In the end, I often can’t see the original flake that started it all.”
At Innovation360, we have observed countless iterations of successful innovations, which cannot always be traced back to a single well-formed idea. In the same way, we have also seen that it is not possible to apply the same kind of thinking, methodology or strategy to today’s challenges as when it comes to exploring, dreaming and creating the future. Whilst some challenges can be tackled with more certainty, dreaming up a radically different future is a completely different game – one that requires us to nurture creativity in parallel to carefully balancing it with structure, so that we preserve the magic of our imagination, while also turning it into reality.
Through data collected from more than 6000 companies in 62 countries, we know that while many organizations are set up to manage Horizon 1, Horizon 2 and 3 are more challenging to handle – being much further away from the traditional and today´s value scheme, and often characterized by unknown factors and lack of data. The uncertainty of the later horizons calls for people and tools that can drive exploration into uncertainty, and that can make it possible to find the snowflake and gradually grow it into a snowball.
At the earliest stages, nurtured creativity is vital to the discovery of innovation, but companies make a grave error in trying to contain creativity in a much too structured process, led by a risk-averse mindset, which is often considered more responsible. For example, businesses often make the mistake of building what customers say they want, based on market research, rather than looking further ahead and exploring something radically new.
Henry Ford supposedly said that, if asking a customer what they wanted, they would have replied ”faster horses” (Vlaskovits, 2011). There is no evidence that Ford actually said this, but the thinking behind it is right on target. What Ford was referring to is what we call the exploration of Horizon 2 and 3, and the fact that a completely different mindset is required for radical innovation. Rather than asking customers what they wanted, Ford was dreaming up the future and applied an outside-in perspective, observing technological changes in combination with the understanding of how people live their daily lives. This was mixed up with a creative hunch and vision for what could be designed for modern humans that could change their lives completely. He had found a snowflake and he allowed creativity to be sprung out of a palette of different colors and elements, which is often exactly what happens in radical innovation and why overly structured processes simply will not do the job in Horizon 2 and 3.
To become successful in innovation discovery, an organization needs people that can take on different roles – a spread of Innovation Personas (Kelly & Littman, 2005). In the early stages of discovery, it is crucial to involve people that can empathize with their surroundings, identify new connections and patterns from observations and that have the ability to see beyond the spoken word to break away from conventions and “truths.” We refer to this persona as the Anthropologist.
With InnoSurvey, it is possible to assess which roles you have an inclination towards in your organization today, and which roles might be lacking for successful discovery. The assessment of innovation capabilities, and the identification of personas needed, can help identify or create radical sub-organizations with the insights needed to form new teams from which great talent and new innovations can be extracted.
Whilst creativity is not the same thing as innovation, creativity plays a key role in making innovation happen. At the same time, big dreams can’t come true all at once. It takes a series of small but pivotal victories and many failures along the way. Start small, fail small and use the results to course correct until you arrive at the solution that lives up to your dreams.
Innovation360 uses a methodology that helps take the sting out of failing, which is the proper application of Hypothesis-based Problem-solving. The hypothesis-based method involves designing and running smaller experiments to test theories. Although it sounds basic, it is rarely practiced in the business world. Innovation projects more often follow a solution-based approach, in which a problem is identified and a solution proposed by an expert. For innovation discovery, the organization needs to challenge current assumptions and perceptions in order to not lazily default to the nearest, most convenient solution at hand, and the hypothesis-based approach, together with the right people and mindset in the project, is a key method to avoid just that.
Whilst identifying and attracting the right people to your organization is crucial, luckily, capabilities can also be trained, and with help from tools and methods, you can learn how to take on, e.g., the Anthropologist role, a key persona in making observations and identifying patterns when setting up hypotheses and gaining insight about something that is completely new – the horizon 2 and 3 initiatives.
Contact Innovation360 to learn more about how methodology can enable your organization to become a seasoned explorer on the frontiers of innovation, helping you to keep up with the pace of change and go beyond to establish competitive advantages that can’t easily be copied. And at the same time, improve the business in the first horizon, balancing the risk and outcome today, tomorrow and the day after that.
Examples of services that support Innovation Discovery and Anthropology as a Strategy
- Team and Organizational Design for radical innovation discovery setting up, e.g., Innovation Centers – using design thinking principles based on real data in ensuring capabilities and competencies are in place for innovation discovery, including, e.g., leadership style for individual teams working on different horizons, personas needed and competence that might need to be acquired to succeed in radical innovation discovery.
- Implementation & Coaching of the hypothesis-based approach, for innovation teams to get hands-on training in how to practically design and run experiments to test theories on a selected strategic initiative, and to consequently learn the maximum amount of practical insights with minimal investment.
- Market Safari, a condensed program aiming to kick-start and encourage innovation culture within the organization in a quick and fun way, whilst educating and inspiring participants to work with innovation discovery with a more anthropological approach, applying an outside-in perspective incl., e.g., training in observational ability trend forecasting, intersectional thinking techniques to make new connections and expand current thinking patterns, empathizing with end-users and identification of radical stimulus to use as a catalyst for the discovery process.