During Barack Obama’s first Oval Office address to the nation, he called on America’s innovative spirit to drive future sustainability initiatives, particularly in clean energy.
Innovation doesn’t stop at reducing our dependence on foreign oil; innovation pushes our society, businesses — small and large — culture and political process into the future. To help usher in a new innovation era, we will rely on forward thinking leadership, our human capital and find new resources to spur ideas, make those ideas appealing and measure our effectiveness:
The first person that comes to mind regarding innovation leadership is hands down, Steve Jobs. He is the archetype leader with a small ego, meaning he respects the minds that surround him; a strong belief in and passion for creativity. Steve Jobs takes a steadfast, yet well-thought approach to change, a strong independence from other market players, and has the ability to put things into perspective. Under his leadership, Apple developed game-changing products, such as the iPhone, iPod, iPad, etc. Although Apple only “invented” the tablet market with its iPad, Jobs found potential in the personal computer, mobile and mp3 markets and found ways — through innovative thinking — to make products distinctly Apple.
Brainstorming new product, features and services doesn’t always rest on the shoulders of one person. Gathering an array of different perspectives — from executive to junior and creative to analytical — can help spur innovative thinking. Before assembling your innovation team, determine the reasons and objectives for the group, those employees that will create an interesting dynamic, how you will capture the ideas and who will ultimately finalize decisions (group consensus or team leader?). During your sessions, the most important thing to remember is have fun. Innovative ideas aren’t born from boring work sessions. Take a look at our innovation workshop series for ways to create great ideas, having fun.
Wake up and smell the roses. According to Chuck Palus and David Horth, authors of The Leader’s Edge: Six Creative Competencies for Navigating Complex Challenges, managers often walk around blindfolded — meaning they have expectations for what they want to see, therefore they limit exploration and the discovery of new experiences. To find innovation, the authors suggest slowing down, experiencing new things that relate to your product or service. If you’re a designer tasked with creating a chips bag, go to the grocery store and look down the chip aisle. Take a picture, think about it. Ask questions. Who buys Dorritos over your brand? Why? What does the Dorritos bag say about its brand. Slowing down to ask new questions and exploring new places can take off the blinders and open a new world to spark innovation.
It’s not good enough to say you’re ahead of the curve, you need to show it. Design, copy, UI, presentations and unique product offerings are channels to showcase your innovative spirit. For instance, when Apple debuted its iPhone device, no other device looked or felt like it. The iPhone’s design, UI coupled with Steve Jobs delivery, demonstrated Apple’s innovation. For companies that spark innovation, such as IDEO, unique product offerings and initiatives illustrate their innovative spirit. IDEO adapted its Method Card system — for inspiring designers — to the iPhone. Users can download a small deck free, then pay for additional cards. The app markets IDEO’s dedication to innovation, much like the iPhone demonstrate Apple’s ahead-of-the-curve thinking.
Before launching your next product or service, determine your yardstick. In other words, how will you know the product or service is a success? Project how much your product or service innovation will impact revenues based on market precedents. Next, consider taking a qualitative and quantitative approach online. Consumers are increasingly transitioning into passive buyers to active advocates via online social media — thus supplying potentially mountains of data and information on your brand. Consider monitoring product mentions on social networking channels (quantitative) or synthesizing user sentiment in product reviews or forums (qualitative). BY ETHAN LYON - SPARXOO