5 steps for getting innovation runs on the board

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While innovation can be exciting, it can also be very challenging.

Once the shine wears off new ideas, we realise that ideas are really just hard work in disguise.

In addition, innovation takes time. And most people don’t have very long attention spans.

If projects go on for too long, people tend to move onto the next shiny object or initiative.

If you can relate to these challenges, here are five simple steps to take to get some innovation runs on the board in just 30 days.

1. Identify a big frustration.

One of the most common mistakes organisations make on their innovation journey is creating products or services that no one actually wants.

As such, your first step is to go out and speak to some customers and understand what frustrates them with the current set of products and services in your category.

In addition, spend time watching your customers interact with your products and look for signs of irritation and workarounds – these are all clues as to where you should focus your innovation efforts.

Within the automotive industry, an example of a frustration many people can relate to is filling up their car with fuel.

It’s a frustration most people encounter every week or two and finding a spare five minutes (and a nearby station) to refuel can be annoying.

In the banking industry, an example of a frustration for customers would be needing to withdraw money from an ATM but not having their card with them.

2. Frame up the frustration as a challenge to solve

Once you have a list of frustrations, consider which are the biggest ones for customers. Express the biggest frustration as a challenge that you can solve.

Start with the words “How can…” and identify a clear and specific challenge, that if solved, would alleviate the frustration customers are currently facing.

The frustration with filling up your car, for example, could translate into a challenge such as: How can we make filling up your car an effortless experience?

For banking, a challenge to solve could be: How can customers access cash from their account from an ATM anytime they like?

3. Crush assumptions to generate solutions

Now that you have a clear challenge, it’s time to get the creative juices flowing.

Bringing in diverse perspectives can also be helpful at this point.

These might be people within your company that you don’t often work with, or you might want to look outside your organisation for people who will view the challenge in a completely different way to what you do.

As effective method to think creatively can be to crush your assumptions.

Think about what assumptions you have about the challenge you are solving.

Ask yourself what if the opposite was true?

For example, drivers assume that to fill up their car with fuel, they need to visit a fuel station.

Crush this assumption by asking “What if drivers could fill up their car without having to visit a fuel station?”

US-based start-up Fill’d crushed this assumption and developed a mobile app that allows drivers to request a fill up, whereby a Fill’d driver comes to the customer’s car and fill it up without the customer ever having to visit a petrol station.

In Australia, Commonwealth Bank of Australia crushed the assumption that customers need an ATM card to access cash, and created “Cardless Cash”, whereby customers can use their mobile phone to withdraw money from ATMs.

4. Run experiments with your most promising ideas

Now that you have an idea, create a basic version of it (otherwise known as a Minimum Viable Product) that will allow you to test whether it’s something that will effectively solve the customer’s problem and add value to their life.

Use the results of your experiment to iterate your idea and improve it before launch.

Alternatively, if your experiments fail, then go back to step 3 to explore other ideas you could build and test quickly and leanly.

5. Launch your idea

After iterating your idea through experimentation, it’s now time for launch!

But the learning doesn’t stop here.

Keep seeking customer feedback and data to constantly improve the solution you have created.

Dr Amantha Imber is the Founder of Inventium, Australia’s leading innovation consultancy. Her latest book, The Innovation Formula, tackles the topic of how organisations can create a culture where innovation thrives.

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