Innovation Definition and the Design Thinking Process
So we've covered mindsets for a while, so the creative visionaries are happy. Now we're gonna move into operator mode and talk about a process and a definition of innovation. Innovation is such a buzz word, in fact The Onion parodied the word recently. So if The Onion parodies a word you know that it's probably overused. But here's a working definition of innovation that comes from my old company Maddock Douglas. I love the way they define it, so just use what they have defined. They define innovation as the intersection of these three things. A problem or need. Usually unarticulated. If it has been articulated then, it's already probably been solved. I'll explain that in a minute. Idea that solves for that need. And then the experience or communication into the market place of how that idea solves that need. Now this is where we're gonna bring in the great Meatloaf. Because in this case, two out of three is bad. You need all three of those to have an innovation. Why is that? Well, let...
s talk about some examples. The Iridium phone from Motorola, was an amazing invention. It just wasn't an innovation. If you're familiar with the story, a number of years ago Motorola launched this satellite phone that could be used anywhere in the world. Tallest mountain top, in the middle of the ocean because it used satellites versus towers. Great invention, just not an innovation because as it turns out only about 200 people in the world actually need this thing. Now how, did this happen? How did the operators at Motorola let this happen without proper testing and market research. Well I actually heard from a C level exec who was there at the time, I actually now know the back story, I only learned it a few months ago. So this is how it happened, and this is what happens in companies. Is the creative visionaries they gang up. The idea monkeys gang up and they try to shunt stuff through the system without the checks and balances the operators create. And they can do it sometimes. Every time it happens, what mostly happens is it fails and then all the operators wring their hands and say we're never gonna let that happen again. And they frankly shouldn't. But they also kill all ideas going forward. So here's what happened at Motorola. C level exec is in the Bahamas with his wife and family. They're down there, she's trying to use the cell phone which of course doesn't work in the islands. And she says to her husband, aren't you somebody, can't you make this work down here? Don't you have some capacity to do something? And as an idea monkey, as a creative visionary that he was he says, you know what? We use satellites, we could actually do this. Let me talk to the team. So he goes back, he gets with some creative visionary engineers. And they actually figure out a way to do it, and bounce signals off satellites and create this amazing device. And it works and it's awesome, and they shunt it through the system without testing it in market research, and then nobody bought it. $1 billion dollars they spent on a phone that could not sell. Huge mistake, and shame on the operators at Motorola for letting it happen, but this is how these things happen. You have to have a need in the market place for it to be an innovation, otherwise its an invention. Inventions are great. Invention are for two guys in a garage. Cause you can't that that kind of risk as a company. Another example where this goes off the rails, where two out of three is bad is, when you don't communicate it well. TiVo used to be a verb. Used to be a verb, I don't think it is anymore. We DVR now but, if your a verb you should make money. So great problem need insight in the market place. We didn't know we needed it, never been articulated, and the first time you saw somebody actually DVR something, you're like, oh that's awesome. Great idea to solve for it, and incredibly poorly articulated. If you ever saw any their early ads it was like the old Microsoft box. It was like, it did 5,000 things and you weren't sure which one you needed, and it was overwhelming, you know like maybe I don't need that thing. And a huge mistake on their part and still have never made money. So that's why two out of three is bad. Back to the unarticulated need. This is what the iPod, the early iPod was so excellent at. If you think about it, for me the first time I ever saw this device, this little white box. I saw somebody scroll through it, and A, B, C, D, all these songs in a row. And I was like oh my God, I need that. I didn't know I needed it, until I saw it. That's what an unarticulated need looks like. If you can find one and solve for it you're gonna make lots of money probably. Alright so design thinking is a great innovation process. It came out of Stanford in the 80's. It was articulated and refined by a guy named David Kelley, who happened to be my academic advisor in college. And so I'm gonna walk you through this five step process, which is a great way to get unstuck. If you are stuck, in a problem, in work, in business, in your personal life, and it's going on for a long time. There's a decent chance your solving the wrong question, solving the wrong problem. Whenever your really really stuck, there's a decent chance you've framed the wrong equation. And you need to figure out a different way of solving that thing. So accept, define, empathize, ideate, prototype, we'll go through each one of these in a little bit of detail. First step, and this comes from Dave Evans and Bill Burnett. Also, lecturers on creative live, and they have a great course, but the accept phase is, seems obvious. In order to solve a problem you have to accept that you actually have one. Which some people don't really wanna do. "You can't solve a problem you're not willing to have." That's a quote from Dave Evans. So the first step to finding solutions is accepting you have a problem. The other thing about acceptance is, you don't wanna solve what Dave and Bill call gravity problems. Oh whoa is me, gravity it's weighing me down. If I could only do something about this gravity. You can't solve gravity, I mean unless you're some sort of super physicist that's working in esoteric math, you're probably not going to solve gravity, so trying to is a waste of your time. Solving other people's problems is a form of gravity problem. You're probably not gonna fix other people, so there's all kinds of gravity problems you don't wanna waste your time on. As Dave says, "if your problem really isn't your problem "but your problem is with your problem, "then that's the problem." So making sure you've accepted a problem that is solvable, is the first step in design thinking. The second is to define that problem. Do we really know, what the nature of this challenge is? Do we understand it from the inside out? What is this, this challenge that we need to solve for? What is that central question. And we'll circle back to this. This is always the core of design thinking. Is making sure the definition is right. In order to do that, and I put these in different order than some. You have to have empathy. So, empathy is being in the shoes. Do we truly understand the problem from the customer standpoint? If I'm solving a customers problem from my lens, I'm solving my problem, not theirs, and they're not going to understand it. So how do we get into the shoes? Brendan Boyle, one of the Stanford lecturers that I was lucky enough to have when I was there, came into one of my early product design classes, and he stood at the front of the room and he's looking all professorial at first. And then he put his arms at his side and he started jumping up and down, and looking really crazy. And then he jumped all the way around the room. And all the students were like, what's going on? Has he lost his marbles? Like, what's going on here? He came back to the center and he said, "our challenge for this task, involves springs. "If you don't know what it's like to be a spring, "you can't solve for a spring, "therefore you must be a spring." So being truly in the shoes of whatever you're trying to solve for is essential to solving complex equations. And then and only then, and here's the great quote from the south. "You can't read the label "when you're sitting inside the jar." This means it's really hard to see your way out of your own situations. So getting a different perspective is essential to solving problems. And sometimes the best way to do that is ask other people. And then finally you get to ideate. Now creative visionaries don't like to wait. They wanna generate ideas from the moment, you get half way through describing a problem to a creative visionary and they're already solving for you. They don't even want to hear the end. But that's not particularly useful if they don't understand it. They haven't properly defined it if they don't have empathy for the situation their solving for. Then you finally get to ideation. Generating lots of ideas. Key to ideation is lots of ideas with no judgment. All bad ideas are fine, there's no bad idea until its bad. Meaning there's no bad idea until you get to the judgment phase. So separating the generation of ideas from the judgment is absolutely essential. As Linus Pauling says, "the key to having great ideas, "is having lots of ideas and then throw out the bad ones." Implicit in that, is that it's a separate step. Lot's of ideas first, then judgment. Generating ideas and judging them simultaneously is, innovation kryptonite. And there's a whole second module on that. And finally test prototype and repeat. You wanna do it quickly, you wanna learn from your mistakes. And as Voltaire said, "don't let the perfect "be the enemy of the good." Get started test, prototype, pilot, fix, refine, go back to define, are we solving the right problem. This is design thinking in a nutshell. It's not hard and it's super useful, and lots of amazing things have been developed out of this. Including the mouse that David Kelley and Ideo helped create for Apple. One of the great inventions of the modern world.