Steve Gebhart, Global VP-Digital Product Development & Client Solutions, Global Experience Specialists (GES)
In today’s world, innovation is the new leader. Nevertheless, as much as we applaud the value-creating potential of innovation, we rarely ask where does innovation come from? how does it begin? what does it look like? how does it come to live in the people and the culture of organizations?
Some names that come to mind are Google, Facebook, Tesla, or many others. All would be accurate. However, innovation did not just develop in the 21st century. I recently read the book, “We shall not fail: the inspiring leadership of Winston Churchill”. A key take away: Nothing works like a simple passion for excellence. When we are methodically curious, it leads to finding things out. At GES, when we turn a problem repeatedly and do not rest on the first solution, we have found many times the fourth or eighth solution is even better iterated and a more complete solution or even innovation.
Studying the consumer behaviors along with our technology can lead to insightful and inspired innovation
If curiosity does not thrive in your organization, there are ways to spark it. I was favored to attend Stanford University’s d.school boot camp. During the intense and fun days, we learned a simple tool to develop one’s curiosity. Ask “Why.” We knew this when we were five years old; but somehow, over time, we can lose this. So the advice is to ask “why?” five times in a row. What you find is that it gets really annoying but also brings tremendous value. The value of a good question cannot be underestimated, particularly when it comes to innovations. More than 50 years ago, Peter Drucker described the power of provocative questions. “The important and difficult job is never to find the right answers; it is to find the right question.” To be specific, here is one we toss around all the time, ‘If we did this, what would happen?’
Last, one of the ways innovation can be sparked and come to live in the organization is for leadership to model and make room for the team to act like anthropologists and social scientists. Taking the time to observe every day, normal behavior can lead to new revelations. Often the surprises that lead to new business ideas come from watching other people work and live their normal lives. Sometimes we overestimate our understanding of customers. Really studying the behaviors and expressions and uses of our technology can lead to insightful and inspired innovation.
So if your goal is to foster innovation, then be curious, ask “why” until you get to the root of the problem you want to solve, and observe everyday behavior. These simple steps will spark innovative, actionable ideas.