Innovation isn’t easy. Creating an idea that serves both the needs of customers and the business is challenging. “Healthy-tension” is an inevitable part of the creative process – it is perfectly natural and critical, because it provides focus and a framework for success. Here are the top five hurdles to innovation, which if managed correctly, can help make your project succeed:
1. Alignment of Ownership and Expectations.
The term “innovation” may be one of the most overused in all of business, it’s come to mean anything from incremental (quick to market) to disruptive (requiring significant change). As a result, you must specifically define your innovation ambition at the outset of a project. Be sure to assign a single entity as “point-person” to be responsible for the project, so that delays hiccups can be avoided.
2. Listening for that Magical Idea.
Managers often have the expectation that great customer ideas are created by simply asking people what they need. If you ask them what they want, they reply that they want a better version of what they have today. Creating new opportunities doesn’t come directly from the requests of customers, but rather from designers listening intently, followed by thinking deeply and creating solutions that exceed the customer’s expectations.
3. Embrace Ambiguity.
In the business world, not knowing the answer is perceived as a weakness, and as a result, ambiguity is highly avoided. However, in the design world, innovation is fueled by ambiguity. Great ideas come from thinking differently, and ambiguity allows you to question assumptions and tackle problems from many different perspectives. Embrace the power of ambiguity, for innovation in an environment that constantly seeks to eliminate it.
4. Expecting Linear Progression.
In most projects, fifty percent of the progress is made in the last ten percent of the timeline. Clients expect a direct correlation between time and progress. The gap between the two lines causes tension as clients feel that the project is behind schedule and in risk of failure.
5. Iterative Testing to Win.
Many client / designer projects rely the process of “stage-gate” – you pass-the-test to move forward to the next stage or die. However, design thinking based innovation is a process of constant iteration – continually learning what works and what doesn’t. Clients often look at unpopular designs and see failure and wasted effort, while those used to design thinking, see it as information to create the next set of designs. Bringing an idea to market requires setting the proper expectations and having the tough conversations to keep everyone focused on clearing hurdles to innovation – and creating a successful launch that results in happy customers.
Experiential Industrial Designer