Innovation Step One – Where Are We Going?


Last week we spoke in very general terms about the seven step innovation framework. This week let’s put a little more meat on the bone and discuss the mindsets necessary to successfully complete step one, sense your intent.

The sense intent step focuses on figuring out where to go, what to offer and how to win within the target landscape. The goal of this step is to provide a direction for research. We need to frame the problem space by diagnosing the situation inside and outside the organization, rethinking historical conventions, and seeking opportunities for innovation. This exercise sets an initial direction for the organization and a general sense of where the organization should be going. The mindsets necessary for this step include continuously detecting the latest changes happening in the world and speculating about what new situations may be looming. The most useful mindsets include:

Sense changing conditions – Concept teams need to continuously keep up with the pace of change in political, economic, social, cultural, and technological disciplines. Changes in any of these areas where others have not yet explored indicates an opportunity to innovate. Because there is an almost overwhelming flood of news and data, the team needs to consider the best place to gather information, the best way to categorize it, and figure out how it relates to organizational strategies. Don’t just take a snapshot of changes and trends but also try to understand how those changes have occurred over time. The data can help you forecast how changes might happen in the future and help you determine how developed innovations fit into the target landscape.

See Overviews – Observe the surroundings and get information on the ground to better help your organization navigate. Provide a big picture understanding of the landscape to provide context to the detail perspectives on the ground. Innovation opportunities benefit from overviews that provide parts, relations, patterns, and dynamics that can help the organization understand changes that have or may occur in the target landscape. Often times, radically new and “disruptive” innovations emerge from the Big Picture mindset.

Foresee trends – A trend is a general direction in which something is developing or changing. Concept teams track trends in technology, business, culture, people and the economy.  While some trends are temporary, others create lasting change in our daily lives.  Recognizing these trends is a skill that can be cultivated by carefully learning to discern patterns of activity.  Teams should cultivate an ability to recognize megatrends and to consider the effect such changes will have on innovation opportunities.

Reframe problems – Recognizing and understanding the culture of an organization helps teams think about how things might be approached differently. For example, organizations governed by Six Sigma are primarily driven by minimizing inconsistency in process output. While that practice makes sense when establishing a process, it may not be the appropriate approach when pursuing new opportunities. Challenging conventional wisdom and processes requires an understanding of how it came to be, and thinking about how best to reframe the problem being addressed by the current process. The ability to reframe problems broadens possibilities and helps teams arrive at “none too obvious” solutions.

Form Intent – After developing an understanding of the context, teams can then form an early intent for the innovation project. Once the fundamental conditions have been identified, it becomes easier to find the type of innovation that should be considered. Continuously keeping up with latest trends and events helps organizations develop ideas about where the world around them may be headed and the kinds of concepts that can be built on those trends. Teams can ground initial intent statements on factual context to make it more reliable and credible. While it is okay to include hunches within the initial intent statement, qualify it with supporting evidence so subsequent goals remain reasonable and logical.

Staying in the correct mindset during this phase of the innovation process can place your innovation project on solid ground and prepare the team for the next step – know your context.

Scott Severns is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply