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Simple framework to help you "hack" innovation.

Like me, you probably have a healthy itch to remain competitive and as we have all witnessed it doesn’t take much in today's fast moving market to wake up one morning and find yourself irrelevant and in the already crowded corporate junk yard.

Innovation and your ability to keep innovating in line with your corporate vision and mission is now a necessary staple and survival tactic. However, it comes with risks and uncertainty, which for many like myself can get you into a type of “writers block” – a creativity brain freeze.

To successfully hack yourself out of this not just once but continuously, freeing ourselves from the past and unlocking the future, I start with two simple high level beliefs:

  • Random innovation rarely works.

  • Planned structured innovation is quick, less risky and impactful.

More often than not, successful innovation originates from the great technologies and services you have already successful developed! They don’t come from making random asymmetric bets on markets that are new and where your domain experience is limited. The foundations that you have forged provide a common and necessary compass that will guide your team to where your focus should be aimed and from which you are able to calibrate your strategy based on what others in your space are doing and how you believe you should differentiate yourself.

To frame your world there are 2 important components;

  • Vectors – these are specific technologies or services lines that your offering has been based on and you can map their trajectory e.g. in the laptop market it could be how you have been able to reduce the size and/or weight faster than the competition.

  • Themes – these are the high level drivers of the vectors e.g. in the PC market it could be mobility, processing power, battery life and or/style and ease.

In the B2B market these can be more challenging to identify but they are important as they are foundational to you successfully innovating.

For example, in the spend analytics (a market I know reasonably well) an example could be:

  • Vector

  • Real time data tagging (write back capability to the data base)

  • Theme(s)

  • Self service data management, speed, ease, accuracy

Consequently, the first stages to the process are to invest some time in identifying and mapping the trajectory of your key technology/service vectors – don’t pick more than 6. The easiest way to do this is to deconstruct your technology/service offering into its essential component parts focusing on those that have truly defined you and your success. Then map each of their evolution's from as far back as possible, recording in detail each change at each stage.

Once you have done this zoom out and identify the key themes (either internal or external) that influenced the development and direction of these vectors, and the value/benefit that has been created for both the customer and yourselves. It's important to try and make the linkages as this makes the next step easier.

With this foundation of information look out into the medium term and start to identify the themes and associated vectors that you believe are going to enable you to “breakout” and then start to assign and/or create ideas of how you can extend these OR add new adjacent ones. Once you have a fair idea of where your new innovations are originating I HIGHLY recommend creating a “utility” or “benefit” curve of each. There is an example below of two. What they measure is how much additional benefit the suggested innovation will release to your customer.

As you can see these simple charts greatly assist you to order and prioritize how you should sequence your innovation activities and improve your hit rate materially.

Innovation is change that unlocks new value: Innovation = Ideation + Plan + Team

What you are try to identify are those few key innovation points that deliver the greatest benefit for the lowest risk and cost in the fastest time frame.

A simple grid like the one below can capture all the necessary detail for you to start hacking and unlock an exciting future.

Go from a being a rule follower to a rule maker.

Essential further reading: Innovator's Dilemma, Clayton M. Christensen

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