Five Innovation Traps

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by: Idris Mootee

I have been spending a lot of time  lately with clients and friends who
are working or are interested in the field of innovation and a few common
themes came up. The most common ones are innovative ideas are often
immediately obscured by current business concerns, organization solios
and narrow visions. I was showing my clients how different companies
approach and show them how we approach it. They were surprised to see
that the “what” is very similar and the “how” is so different.
The difference lies in the fact that many treat innovation
exercises or efforts as either a series of brainstorming sessions and
some creative ideas bouncing around or they see it as another way
adding some brainstorming to just business planning. Or some treat it
as a stage-gate exercise. Ok, let me make that clear. Brainstorming DOES
NOT equal innovation. Innovation IS NOT business planning. The surprise
element is when I show them how “Design Thinking” can be used to drive
innovation. That’s when they open their eyes. Also my slides are pretty.

Whether we are talking about radical innovation or incremental
innovation, there are a number of things that could get us into the
wrong paths. I called them “innovation traps”. Here are the top five:

The Product Extension Trap –  Starting your
innovation through a “product development” lens and starting early on
creating stage gate is a sure way to get you inside a box. Don’t need
that at all even thought that is part of your intent.

The Product Performance Trap – Too often people are
obsessed with competing on the performance front and ignore many human
elements that are equally important in creating new differentiation.
This is where human-Centered Design can be a great tool for innovation.
Not spreadsheets and pie charts.

The Commitment Trap – Lack of commitment to make
innovation happen is another key problem. Many simply see it as
nice-to-have and not committing enough energy and resource to make it  a
part of an organization day-to-day activities.

The Validation Trap –  I have a love and hate
thing with this word. As much as validation is key, I often see
executives spending unproportional energy in trying to collect data and
missed the opportunity to learn and refine early enough. This is
seeking improvement in an agile fashion and is more important that
looking for validation. This is where “design thinking” come into play.
My company is turning designers into strategists.

The Boundaries Trap – Innovation doesn’t want a
box, but it needs boundaries. Setting some boundaries early on helps
set context and should not be send as constraints. In fact, it is a
pre-condition for effective innovation.

Let me know what you think. I’d better be getting back into my meetings. Diagrams by Peter Marks and Mike Tanner.

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