WSJ on innovation: look in a different haystack

The Wall Street Journal has a nice article on innovation and why some compnaies are better at it than others…and tools we can all use to make sure were not looking in the same haystack we did last time. Breakthrough ideas aren’t going to come from the same ways of thinking that got us there.

Those ideas, however, don’t really come from nowhere. Instead, they are typically at the edge of a company’s radar screen, and sometimes a bit beyond: trends in peripheral industries, unserved needs in foreign markets, activities that aren’t part of the company’s core business. To be truly innovative, companies sometimes have to change their frames of reference, extend their search space. New ways of thinking and organization can be required as well.

So what can we do? Many of the ideas are classic Design Thinking tools…

My faves:

The Deep Dive.

Connect deeply with users and find real unment needs in corners we’ve never looked into. Step into the user’s world like an anthropologist steps into a new culture – leave your preconceptions at the door and see the user for the first time. This is using empathy to really “get” the user and create a fertile enviroment for new growth.

Lead Users.

The deep dive is great, but your results are only as good as the source material. Connecting with Lead Users can give you much more articulate feedback and can also help build the kind of credibility that innovators can smell. Without that credibility, early adopters will never give you a second look.

Lead users are also innovators themselves, as WSJ says….and they have been thinking about your problems for as long (or longer) than you have…and they want to share their ideas and concepts.

This sort of open dialogue with users can create real innovation and real design directions.

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