Comedy and Innovation are Bedfellows

See-through-eye-of-the-customerMany comedians are gifted with the same ability that good innovators have. Jerry Seinfeld is a great example. Jerry has the ability to see everyday things from a different angle. I prefer to think of it as “through a different set of eyes” to most people. Once he strips bare the everyday “nuance”, the humour unravels fast. He almost always looks at the problem the “nuance” created or could create.

Innovation requires the same skills. Looking at problems through the eyes of someone else. Looking at it with a fresh mindset. Looking at simple things.

Is Innovative thinking a Trainable Skill?

Yes, I think so. Here are tips to advance your innovative thinking:

Firstly, whose eyes will you be looking through? It should be the customer-set that you are hoping to capture. This may not be the customer-set you communicate with today. Crawl into the mind of this customer-set and try to imagine their thinking on the topic you are exploring.

You have to talk with an enquiring mind to understand their thinking. A great way to do this is to ask about problems. Ask why up to 5 times to really understand issues.

Secondly, new and naive people in the customer-set are just as valuable as the experienced and learned. It’s a fact that new “learner drivers” notice the annoying features of a new car far more than the experienced driver. With experience, the brain glosses over the everyday issues and nuances. These experienced people cant always see the simple nuances that annoy new drivers. They ignore the everyday bug-bears. So interview the young and naive as well as those with money.

Thirdly, a foreign designed object that looks foreign will provoke a lot of questions. My belief is basic needs around the world are fundamentally similar. It’s the environment that changes and this drives an additional layer of needs. Moving objects from one environment to another highlights this layer. Grab a lunchbox from Japan and see how it compares with yours.

At the Shanghai Boat Show a few years ago , I was puzzled why so many (not all) of the large cruising boats on display had a single engine. Were the Chinese not aware of the major benefits of twin engines? Yes they were aware; but no, they didn’t need them. Most buyers wanted large karaoke party boats. This meant small engine rooms, small galley kitchen and a huge below deck karaoke room. This customer-set found it easier to hire a karaoke boat than to rent a nightclub room.

You have new “eyes” what can you see?

Firstly, keep observations very simple. Don’t over complicate requirements or problems. Keep each one simply isolated from another. Don’t combine 2 problems together. Look at the very basics with fresh eyes and think about the problems you can see.

Here is a funny excerpt from Seinfeld:

Kramer: Mmm… Nice wallet.
Newman: Wallet.
Jerry: What?
Kramer showing Jerry the contents of his pocket
Kramer: Nobody carries wallets anymore. I mean, they went out with powdered wigs. Yeah, see here’s what you need. Just a couple of cards and your bankroll.
See, keep the big bills on the outside.
Jerry: That’s a five.

The humour is in the simple nuances. Could Kramer design an innovative wallet? Yes, if he wanted to…

Now you are in the final phase of this simple journey.

You have all the small nuance problems listed.

Now brainstorm solutions. Have as many team members working creative solutions. (see my other blog on the power of having quirky people on your team).

  • Use a principal that one solution for one problem is inadequate.
  • One solution to 2 problems is fair.
  • One solution to 3 problems is good.
  • More than this and you may have cracked it.

In the Kimberley Kruiser project we had documented over 160 problems. The core solutions were less than 30. Thats a nice ratio.

Practice will make you perfect

The only thing that will make you better is failure. Big failure is all to obvious. Its the small annoying mediocre failures that cost even more as you may persevere hoping that the innovation will pan out. When the don’t, you have lost a lot of time. We always undervalue time and over value the expenses we are trying to save.

Save yourself a lot of money and gain the experience of my failures. As a bonus you will get trained in the practical Innovation of your Big Ideas.

Read all of Bruce Loxton’s blogs on Innovation, simplification and be inspired to do the impossible!

View from the Proverbial Canoe.

Kayaking in swirl 1050px

Picture yourself as the one in the canoe. You don’t have all the information but the confused water speaks for itself.
How worried would you be? Just getting to shore safely would be a common response.

This picture represents crossroads we often face in business:

  • Lack of all the information,
  • Things look murky on the surface
  • Action is needed to recover.
  • Those watching have frozen looks of fear.

If you are at these crossroads, here are some tips on handling fear in your team:

  • Validate the current downside risk: Unless it is death or destruction, dispell the gravity of the danger.
  • Validate the unknowns: Eliminate low probability unknowns. Reinforce the most probable unknowns.
  • Simplify the problem statement in one sentence: Dumb down the visuals to non threatening simple problems.
  • Focusing on the best case scenario will ease feelings of fear. Your team will move in a positive direction. Thoughts have tremendous power to visualise the universe, so make sure you create a good one!

Continue reading View from the Proverbial Canoe.

Response – can it be over the top?

Response-time-to-call

Its hard to go over the top when you simplify communication

Younger people respond faster and with more brevity.
However, you may get 3 letter acronyms that take a few seconds to process. Once learned, they are fun.

This form of communication is usually short but maybe sometimes obscure!

Simplifying a business can be started with simpler communication. Lets start with email and break a few rules to get to “simple”:

  • Unless it’s a policy, don’t “CC” the crew. This loads up their inbox and takes more time.
  • If it is policy, keep the CC list as brief as possible.
  • Unless you are handling sensitive legal documents, abandon the footer disclaimer.
  • Keep your footer short with no images and best contact phone number.

Continue reading Response – can it be over the top?

Quirky People – essential Team Members

Quirky-people-are-valuable-with-doing-the-impossible

People with a quirky frame of mind are an invaluable asset. Ill go even further and say without these people on your team, it will be hard to do the impossible.

Read further down to my personal meeting to Elon Musk, a great example of quirkiness…

Quirky people think creatively to solve problems and tackle tasks.

  • Think of outside-the-box solutions for problems.
  • Try to see all aspects of a situation.
  • Come up with solutions that no one has thought of before.

Creative People have a great deal of Physical Energy 

  • They work long hours, with great concentration, while projecting an aura of freshness and enthusiasm.

Key characteristic is Courage

  • Quirky creative people adapt to almost any situation and adjust quickly to reach their goals. More than anything else, is their resourcefulness and the courage not to give up.

Continue reading Quirky People – essential Team Members

Art and Science of Product Innovation

Product InnovationCreating the “Impossible”

In my mind, the black art of innovation and the white science of problem solving go hand in hand to “create the impossible”. One needs both for a commercial outcome.

Famous artists follow two broad processes:

  • quick and creative – Picasso, Pollock
  • careful and methodical – Monet (he planted water lilies before painting them)

Both results are innovative: they create something new that hadn’t been before.
However, the probability of commercial success with the “careful and methodical” process is far higher, in my opinion. Here is why: Continue reading Art and Science of Product Innovation