Despite popular opinion, innovation is not a vague, mystical quality only the gifted are blessed with. According to Scott D. Anthony, managing partner of strategy and innovation consulting firm Innosight, innovation is a skill that can be mastered.
But first, what is innovation? He says: “If you walk into any company and ask 10 people to define it, you will get all sorts of different answers, so having a common language on what innovation is, is incredibly important. We define it in five words: something different that creates value.”
And it’s not something reserved for engineers and researchers. Innovation can be employed in coming up with a new marketing approach or even a different way to run an internal meeting. “The first way to practise innovation is to live in the intersections,” he shares. “Innovation magic happens when different mindsets, skills and backgrounds get together. So get out of your comfort zone. If you’re in F&B, go to a trade show in the electronics industry. If you’re an engineer, talk to a marketing person. Get different context and talk to somebody from a different background, because that’s when you get the spark of brilliance.”
His second tip uses the metaphor of flying a kite. “If you study how the Wright brothers solved the problem on human flight, you will see that it involved very disciplined experimentation. Before they built the plane, they built a kite, so no one gets hurt if it crashes and it’s easy to try again. So, instead of coming up with a perfect plan or studying your idea forever, just go out and try it,” says Anthony. “If you dramatically decrease the cost of failure, then it’s not really failure at all; it’s just learning that will lead to a better experience the next time.”
Finally and perhaps most importantly, he urges everyone to just get out of the building. “When we live inside our offices and teams, we never see the problems worth solving. Get out there and really understand your current and prospective customers in a deep and meaningful way,” he says.
In fact, he advises everyone to triple the amount of time spent with customers or co-workers. “Once you find a clearenough problem, the solution sometimes becomes almost self-evident. And if you can innovate with that knowledge, you can make their lives better.”