From inspiration to innovation: 4 steps to inspire new thinking in your company

Dave Townsend

President

Monday, July 25, 2016

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We were honored to have a full house for our session during the Cincinnati NewCo event at our offices. What follows is a brief recap of our presentation.

Innovation continues to be a hot topic in the business world, but it is a concept that is not always executed with excellence.

With apologies to anyone who drives a Pontiac Aztec, business history is littered with examples of failed attempts at “being innovative.” Consider pen maker Bic’s line of disposable underwear, beer company Coors introducing a line of bottled water and the aforementioned Aztek. There are many reasons why these products failed, but most can be led back to the fact that the ideas were not actually new and/or did not make relevant connections to their intended audiences.

True innovation has to get beyond the rational familiar. "New" is a concept that mostly lives in the emotional spaces of our brains. We believe true innovation happens when we make unexpected connections to things that seem to have little, or anything, to do with the problem, but upon deeper discovery they are very relevant and related. This requires inspiration.

Innovation is not a process — it’s an outcome. We have to stop trying to be innovative and start looking for inspiration that can connect us to what is truly new. There can be no innovation without inspiration.

To ensure inspiration is not absent from innovation, we developed a four steps guide that can help you get inspired and lead you to something truly new and fuel new thinking in your organization:

1. Be honest

Define the true problem or opportunity. Get to the underlying, often ugly truth of the problem, or the toughest obstacle standing between you and success. Don't get caught up in the symptoms and don’t ignore the hurdles. This is harder than it sounds.

2. Distill it down

Don’t look at the problem or opportunity as a whole. Problems are always complex.

Opportunities are never easy. Write down words that define critical aspects of the problem or opportunity: causes, effects, potential, outcomes, obstacles, etc. Prioritize your list from those that have the biggest impact to those that have the least.

3. Look outward

Look for brands, organizations, individuals or innovators associated with the top five words. Work to capture strategies, stories, examples, solutions from different organizations, different industries that have experienced or solved the core elements of your problem or created unexpected success.

4. Indulge passions

Look at yourself: Indulge personal passions. Your own interests may seem like unrelated areas, but they will inspire valuable connections. Uncover how you have taken on similar challenges in other aspects of your life. You will be shocked at how your interests in say sports, music or movies will reveal unexpected patterns that lead to inspiration.

Now look at the inspiration you’ve assembled. What you’ve done is surround yourself with wildly diverse ideas and possibilities, directly related to your challenge that you would have never discovered, no matter how much time, ingenuity or manpower you threw at it.

If you’d like to learn more, let's connect.

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