Innovative Thinking – Say what you think

Check your assumptions at the innovation door.

Innovative Thinking – Say what you think


In collaborative problem solving sessions, it is important to say what you think.  

The rule is that there are no bad ideas during fact finding.  If you offer information and ideas only to fit what you think the rest of the group wants to hear, you rob the session of your unique viewpoint.  

Similarly, if you are out in the field and asking questions, capture every fact you can from people you interview.  Sometimes what seems to be the most off-the-wall observation is an indication of something important going on.  

With more investigation into the statement, other facts may emerge that are useful to understanding your problem.

Embrace What Everyone Thinks So People Will Say What They Think

Innovation occurs when new perspectives are embraced for further development.  The person who sees things differently from the others is sometimes the one who sees them most clearly.  However, the idea of seeing things differently makes some people uncomfortable. 

Many people second-guess themselves and believe that, if no one else sees the problem as they do, then they must be wrong.  In order to define problems accurately, you must overcome this discomfort and encourage everyone’s open-minded input.  

Evidence of the impact of new perspectives can be found in design firms every day.  

Companies pay top dollar to hire these firms to help them see their industries and markets in new ways.  In design firms like IDEO, frog, and RKS, designers create new products and services for just about any potential client who walks through the front door, whether it be a large hospital chain or a toy company.  

One might ask, why would large companies turn to much smaller enterprises for their economic future?  The answer lies in the Innovator’s Dilemma chronicled by Christensen. 

Conditioned by past success and a local search bias, managers will often rely on past experience and honed mental models to guide future business decisions.  After all, it would make sense to keep doing what has led to the organization becoming large in the first place.  While rational, this approach often leads to disaster for the big company.  

Beware the New Kids On The Block

Newer firms have fewer employee routines and customer expectations, and thus have greater capacity to release innovative products into unsuspecting industries and markets.  

Therefore, beginning in a state of ignorance (or beginner’s mind) can often be an advantage for new players developing innovative products and services.  By having an outsider’s perspective, entrepreneurs do not hold a local search bias and through the systematic application of effective creative strategies can more easily generate ideas that are novel to an industry.

Enlightened executives who understand the perils of the Innovator’s Dilemma and local search bias may not feel confident in their own company’s ability to innovate and turn to design firms to suggest opportunities for growth.  

If a design firm can create new products and services on a daily basis for large clients, it is feasible that an entrepreneur devoting all their time and energy to a similar, context independent approach can lead to the development of one good idea for a single business.  Fact finding skills properly applied within a creative process can give smaller firms an advantage in finding opportunities more established companies are overlooking.

They can also be applied in bigger organizations and enable the advantage to swing back in their favor when they allow the people with inside scoop to be able to say what they think.

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