How To Speed Up Your Innovation Process

Author: Evette Cordy

Many businesses are under overwhelming pressures, including constant deadlines for immediate, short-term results. There is often an urgency to innovate due to revenue shortfalls, portfolio gaps and/or market disruptions. Where organisations once had the luxury of time to work on long-term innovation pipelines, business dynamics have dramatically changed. There is a need to inspire teams to respond and innovate quicker than ever. And if you don’t, your competitors will.

There are three critical aspects that can help you speed up your business’s innovation process:

Assemble a diverse team

Have you ever been in an innovation workshop where one is spouting ideas, another is contending why they won’t work, another is more focused on progressing to how they will implement the idea, and another needs more information before developing their ideas? You are not alone.

There are four key stages to the creative process: get things started, take time to define the problem, turn ideas into practical solutions or get things done. Although, most of us have different preferences for each stage.

There is scientific evidence that cognitive diversity has significant benefits for innovation results if managed well, as confirmed by innovation and creativity author Dr Min Basadur who found that heterogeneous teams perform more innovatively than homogeneous teams.

To better ensure innovation, start by assembling a cognitively diverse team that will consider your problem- and solution-finding from many perspectives.

Use a creative problem solving process

In addition to team members with the right mix of cognitive styles and experience, you need a process to guide your innovation efforts. The creative problem solving process can enable you to compress months of strategy, product and/or service development.

A design sprint is one of the most effective creative problem solving approaches to speed up your innovation process in relation to product or service design. It is a five-day experiment that produces immediate results, but you first need to understand the relevant customer problems. You may need to undertake a customer deep dive before you’re ready to sprint.

Monday: Define the problems

Clarify your most valuable problem to solve by mapping business and customer problems and defining the corresponding solution criteria. Reframe these problems into a ‘how might we …’ statement, which invites multiple ways to solve it

Tuesday: Generate solutions

Co-create solutions for your most valuable problems, using the ‘how might we …’ statement. First, explore all possible solutions, consider using lateral thinking tools to push your thinking, build lo-fi prototypes, and then deliberately and affirmatively converge on the optimal solutions.

Wednesday: Develop prototypes

While you will have identified a list of solutions, you can’t realistically prototype and test them all. Once you have decided to build a prototype think about ways you can bring your solutions to life by making it a realistic enough customer-facing experience.

Thursday: Test prototypes

Conduct one-on-one contextual interviews and observations with customers in their natural environment. Listen with your eyes and ears, and ask open-ended questions such as why, how, what and when to understand how prospective users interact with your prototypes.

Friday: Pitch Prototypes

By the end of the week, you will have created many possible solutions, converged on the most optimal and built and tested realistic prototypes to learn from these interactions. It should now be clear whether your product or service is worth further investment and development.

Teach the innovation process skills

You can have diverse cognitive styles along with an innovation process and tools, but it’s all a waste of time if your team don’t interact well. Imagine you’re in your car and have your foot on the accelerator and brake at the same time. What happens? Nothing – you don’t go anywhere. This is what happens to innovation when we don’t teach team members the two essential process skills.

There are two essential process skills that need to be kept separate, just like your brake and accelerator. The first one is divergent thinking, which is about generating many options without editing or criticising, to defer our judgement. Convergent thinking is about narrowing down and selecting the best options and requires affirmative judgment. When it comes to innovation, the key is to isolate these two modes of thinking.

Are you ready to speed up your innovation process? As the above aspects highlight, the right combination of process, skills and team members can help organisations to unlock breakthrough thinking and deliver faster innovation outcomes.

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