Tales from the Road: Innovating into the Beyond
Last week the Catapult Team returned from a fantastic 2-day workshop with an automotive client. Through the years I’ve been fortunate to work alongside countless partners in innovation, and each has been a learning adventure. This one was no different – reinforcing a few key tenants of ideation.
This group was made up of extremely sharp, subject matter experts who brought deep knowledge of consumers, industry legislation, physics, and modern engineering. But, like many organizations, their challenge was shaking free of their own deep-rooted expertise to contemplate their potential to meet consumer needs of the future. So how do you break through the “now” and hit a target that will materialize tomorrow?
One way is ensuring adequate time ideating against each opportunity. This allows close-in, incremental Ideas to surface, and what’s left is an empty space begging for more novel ideas to be born. The longer you spend focusing on a specific problem, the more likely those breakthrough ideas will emerge.
Another important component is gaining a circumspect view of possible, even likely, future realities. This can Involve diving into trends, measuring their trajectories, and examining the likely intersections within your industry. It’s important to move beyond what we know about the world today so we can give ourselves time to bring tomorrow’s solutions to life.
The last innovation tenant can be a surprising one for those who don’t spend their careers ideating. Long ago, we discovered an interesting phenomenon in which humans are more successful and prolific ideators when given specific boundaries. Blue-sky ideation, often referred to as “brainstorming,” generally results in scattered ideas that are typically iterative deviations of solutions that already exist. Think of it as a mining expedition in which we dig hundreds of shallow holes in search of treasure. Instead, we want everyone digging one, deep hole to gain synergies and hit paydirt. In practice, this goes beyond defining a problem to solve and delves into exclusionary exercises that prohibit certain realities of the world as it exists today.
In the end, our 2-day session was incredibly engaging, productive, and fun, and the next stop is likely a repeat performance for the client’s European division. Time to update my passport, which quietly expired during the pandemic.