Where Do Game Changing Innovation Ideas Really Come From?

Many business leaders give up on innovation because they simply don’t know how to innovate.  They have never been taught. Are you one of those leaders? Have you accepted that work will never be fun again…and you just have to endure the pain and unhappiness for a few more years until you leave or retire? My friends- there is hope…read on.

Where do great, game changing innovation ideas come from? Is it the guru from on top of the mountain? Perhaps- but there is a way that you and you team can come up with great, break through ideas. AND- you can do this on a repeatable basis. Do I have your attention now?

Dr. W Edwards Deming, the greatest systems thinker of our time said, “Did customers ask for the electric light? No. They never asked for it, the producer produced it. No one asked for a car, nor a telephone. No one asked for a copy machine or a fax machine. Innovation does not come from the customers. Innovation comes from the producer, from people who are responsible for themselves and have only themselves to satisfy.”

We believe that Dr. Deming was right. We have to lead the customer to change their expectations. We have to have stimulus for the creation of ideas, and rely on collaboration to build those ideas bigger. How do we start to develop a hypothesis for an idea? We call it stimulus mining. Why? Because it sounds so much better than research- and it is stimulus for how to create Meaningfully Unique products or services. Being Meaningfully Unique means that you can charge more- and the customer will pay, because they get that added value. If you could have higher margins in your business…would that make work more fun…and take some of the pressure off?

Most innovation consultants and agencies take a very shallow approach. They only use the voice of the customer. This is the easy thing to do, and it may be all they know. Some will even bring in “innovative consumers” to further reinforce that consumers can drive you to successful  innovation ideas. While voice of the customer is very important, it does not allow you to go very deep in your ideas. You are left with very ‘close in’ ideas. In reality, you have to have the Core (internal, close in) innovations- but the Leap (game changing)  innovations are going to define your company. You will always need a blend of ‘Leap’  innovations and ‘Core’ innovations. We can help with both Core and Leap, but the Leap innovations are so much more fun. Innovation Engineering is the only innovation method that goes really deep for new ideas.

Innovation Engineering teaches us how to go deep with individual ‘mining’, and then how to use the diversity of our team (collaboration) to really make ideas bigger. We actually grow ideas, and not compromise them away. Most innovation consultants will give you a few concepts, then walk away. We help you deliver business ideas, with a better chance of success.

How we teach our clients to ‘mine’ for ideas:

Insight Mining– this is the voice of the customer. You absolutely need to mine for customer and needs. But you should not end here. You should take the requests, surveys and conversations with customers much deeper. What are the problems they are experiencing? These problems may be either 1) big problems that happen infrequently, or 2) small problems that happen very frequently. Great innovations solve problems- understand the problems that customers are having.

Market Mining– What else like ‘this’ is happening in your industry? What solutions have other industries discovered for like kind problems? A few years ago, the pharmaceutical industry learned from the beer industry about how to reduce and eliminate the problems associated with foaming in mixtures. Can you find a solution to a like-kind problem in another industry?

Tech Mining– This is the area where you will really be able to create a ‘leap’ innovation, and leap over your competitors. What technologies or patents can you license and average to help you solve your problems?

To really understand how an existing patent may help you, don’t just read the patent- do the unthinkable- pick up the phone and call the inventor. Talk to them about how and why they invented their idea. Talk to them about using the idea in your industry. You can do this without disclosing confidential information. Inventors love to talk about their accomplishments. They will share with you. It may just be that you can license the technology- and get started on your new innovation today. By picking up the phone- you will learn much more that you would just reading the patent. Sometimes you may have to call their patent attorney to make the connection- but great things are never easy.

Real world changing innovations may take more than 1 piece of intellectual property to leap into the future. The original iPod required the ‘stitching together’ of 8 (yes- eight) intellectual inventions to make it happen.

I worked with a large company last week, and we identified some patents that may change their whole industry. They are proceeding with conversations with the patent holders now, to see if there is a match. There will be some modification required- but early indications are this intellectual property would work in their application.

Wisdom Mining- Talk to experts in the industry. What do they see coming? Where do they think major problems are? How could their ideas fit in your industry?

A few weeks ago, I was working on a project for a company in Europe. I found a leading expert in California who was an industry leader, and made the connection. This ideas will be game changing got this client.

Future Mining– What trends are coming that you can take advantage of? The aging of the Baby Boomers is a big trend right now. What trends can we take advantage of? How can we be on the leading edge?

Unrelated Mining– There are techniques that you can employ that will take you outside of your comfort zone. They will cause you to make connections that you may not have otherwise made. These are critical in Leap Innovations. You have to get out of your comfort zone.

If you have a system to combine these mining techniques- you have a much better chance of getting to game changing Leap Innovations. The voice of the customer will aid you in your Core Innovations- but these will be ‘close in’ offerings, and will not transform your company into the company that you want it to be. Work is a lot more fun if you are growing, with an innovation pipeline that is full. Work is more fun when you don’t have to look over your shoulder..waiting for reality to catch up to you. Is there a law that says work has to be stressful and not fun?

An easy next step is to give us a call. Have a discussion with us about how we may be able to apply these principles to your business. Innovation Engineering is the only innovation system in the world that does this kind of depth to search for ideas. Innovation Engineering is the only innovation system being taught at 20+ universities.

What do you you have to lose- other than a few sleepless nights worry about how to innovate and grow your company.

Bruce Hall
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