Stripping innovation down

Stripping innovation down to its essential core

Confucius said: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Have you ever realized that succeeding in business in general and innovation in particular is just about three things? Today, let’s take a few steps back and look at business and innovation in the most simple, essential way. Let’s begin stripping innovation down to its essential core.

The three essentials

Business in general and innovation in particular are all about mastering and aligning the three Ps — process, project and people:

  • Process addresses the how of doing business and innovation: How can we undergo a certain activity in the most effective way?
  • Project deals with the what and why: What do we want to do that adds value to our business and its customers? Why do we believe this is valuable?
  • People focuses on the who: Who do we focus our efforts on? Who should we involve? Who else can help us with their expertise and connections?

When you want to do innovation, clarify what innovation case you want to work on (innovation project), how you want to do it (innovation process method), and who benefits from this as well as who you want to involve in the action (people: target users or customers and innovation project participants).

Now that we’ve been stripping innovation down to its essential components, let’s discuss each essential component in the greater detail.

Master the 3P of Innovation

The process side of innovation

Process always focuses on producing certain desired results in an effective way. In innovation, an innovation process specifies certain stages and work steps that you need to take to systematically produce the desired innovation results.

There are many innovation processes out there, such as the Creative Problem-Solving (CPS) model or Design Thinking. It’s up to you to find the one which resonates with you. Naturally, I favor X-IDEA, the innovation process method that I developed for my company Thinkergy after I noticed shortcomings in most other methods.

Why should you use a systematic innovation process method? It gives your work and thinking focus and direction. For example, in each stage of X-IDEA, we follow a different objective, step into a different mental role, employ three different cognitive activities, and apply different types of thinking & creativity tools. We avoid different types of cognitive biases and process traps, and produce different kinds of outputs.

X-IDEA and other systematic innovation methods address the process side of innovation: How to help individual innovators and innovation teams to effectively go through an innovation project and reliably produce tangible innovation results?

The project side of innovation

A process doesn’t exist all for itself, but needs to be applied on a certain task, activity or project. The same holds true for an innovation process method like X-IDEA: You have it to apply it on a worthy innovation project.

In an innovation project, an individual innovator or — more typical— an innovation team works on a focus case (or “innovation challenge”) to produce specific desired innovation outputs. Your final innovation deliverable might be a new product that you ship; a new service that you launch; a new solution that you implement; a new customer experience that you stage; a new campaign that you launch; a new business model that you initiate; or a new strategic road map with strategic actions that you’re going to execute over the next years.

Different innovation projects pursue different target outputs, or cater to different innovation types. Here notice that certain innovation methods (such as Blue Ocean Strategy or the Business Model Canvas) work well only for certain innovation types, such as strategy innovation or business model innovation. But innovation today goes far beyond the traditional types of product innovation or process innovation or the talked about most recent additions.

For that reason, I designed X-IDEA to work for all fourteen modern innovation types that the innovation literature currently distinguishes. Thanks to our mighty X-IDEA’s thinking toolbox that accompanies our method and currently contains 150 thinking &  creativity tools, we just pick different combinations of tools to deliver results for different innovation types.

The people side of innovation

Once you know what innovation project case you want to work on and have chosen the most effective innovation process, the last parameter you need to define is people, which has an external and internal dimension:

  • Specify the external people aspect by answering these questions: Who are the target users and customers that benefit from the new innovation? And who are potential partners who may provide case or process expertise for this project?
  • To produce good results in an effective manner, it’s equally important to answer the following questions: Who should participate? Who are the creative types that drive and thrive in an innovation project? Who should be invited to join only for certain process stages (such as the Evaluation- or Action-stage in X-IDEA) based on their preferred cognitive style?

To master the people side of innovation, consider using the help of a cognitive personality profiling instrument such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Herrmann’s Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) or Thinkergy’s innovation people-profiling  method TIPS, which integrates into the X-IDEA innovation process method.

Producing successful innovations can be simpler than you thought once you start stripping innovation down to it’s essential components. Contact us if you want to learn more about how we may help your company succeed in an innovation project with the help of our innovation process method X-IDEA and our innovation people-profiling method TIPS.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article is published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 14 April 2016.