It was one idea that created the Apples, Teslas and Amazons of the world; one idea that landed a man on the moon. Why is it so hard to get ideas out of our best people and into our organizations? Perhaps it’s because some believe that only truly brilliant individuals can innovate. When you think of innovation, people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Craig Groeschel most likely come to mind. However, this might also cause us to toss innovation to the back burner because we are not as “brilliant” as they are. Today I want to share an innovation framework that will help move your teams from idea to concept to execution.
DISCOVERY: BUILDING THE DREAM TEAM
Innovation is no longer about brilliant individuals. It’s about brilliant teams. When you’re cultivating an idea, choose several “zero-gravity” thinkers to take this journey with you. In her book The Innovation Killer, former Intel innovation strategist Cynthia Barton Rabe notes that “zero-gravity thinkers [should not be] weighed down by the expertise of a team, its politics, or ‘the way things have always been done.’” The more thinking partners and trusted advisors you have in your corner, the better.
Zero-gravity thinkers will not hold back how they feel or what they think of your solution. These honest opinions will allow your team to reach an optimal outcome at a faster rate. It feels good to have people agree with our ideas, but reassurance doesn’t always allow for progress. It’s zero-gravity thinkers who will challenge the status quo and create new thoughts and ideas that push us outside of our comfort zone.
When it comes to discovering what we can build and how we can build it, we need to avoid surrounding ourselves with “yes” people and start surrounding ourselves with people who question: “What if? How can we? and Why?”
VALIDATION: GET INTO THE FIELD
Speaking to buyers, customers and users is the best way to generate new ideas, decide where your focus should be directed, and understand why your solution isn’t working. This research is a critical part of knowing if you have interest and buy-in before you go all in. When we talk to the right people early, we avoid investing in something that may not have legs in the market or in our sphere of influence. I believe in failing fast if the proper work has been done beforehand. However, most ideas fail because necessary guardrails haven’t been put up to stop innovations early when we can see no one has an appetite for what we are trying to build.
Feedback gives innovators guardrails to see the early signs of success and failure. It helps them understand where the needs are and allows for laser-like focus in their approach, versus those who throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. When handled correctly, this framework creates the building blocks for success and early indicators of failure.
PITCH: IT’S TIME TO SHINE
Armed with customer feedback and research, it’s time to create a working prototype of your idea. We will use this to interact with potential customers, users, or buyers. Don’t let the pitch phase fool you; you are not out of the woods yet. You will take the feedback you receive and begin to iterate through it in order to learn.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines iterating as doing something again and again. When we come out of the pitch phase, we don’t hold our idea precious; we expect a few more rounds of discovery, validation, and pitching before we can really confirm that the idea is ready. Iteration happens rapidly, so don’t be alarmed. When iteration is done right, it allows us to always be learning, growing, and expanding the way we solve problems and deliver solutions.
When teams tackle this three-step process together, I’ve seen innovations delivered faster at a lower cost to market. If you want to win, get unconventional voices and zero-gravity thinkers involved at the beginning, talk to customers and hold early ideas loosely. Now, let’s go transform something.
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