Stop just #Innovating , start #Empathizing

innovative

There I said it.

Everywhere you go today, the focus is on Innovation as a verb. You must Innovate. There are Innovation Frameworks out there that define a framework on how you can generate Innovations at your work and personal life if you follow a process. Some of these frameworks are openly available while some are proprietary. There are even geographical areas that are designated with the Innovation titles to hopefully instill the belief that Innovation happens there before anywhere else. And then there are the individuals that have Innovation in their titles and seem to be somewhat responsible for Innovation at their companies.

Are we Innovation-ed out?

While the focus on Innovation and those Innovation Frameworks are valuable and can produce ideas and innovations, you shouldn’t stop there. The additional focus needs to be on why you are innovating. What pain or gain are you trying to achieve. Traditionally if your gain is just to make more money, then the life of your Innovation will be short lived. How do we then generate long lived Innovations?

Outcome

Innovation is an outcome rather than an action. I’m not sure how we got to the place where Innovation became an action and not an outcome. In some ways that is tantamount to changing for the sake of change. Let’s look at the definition of Innovation:

: a new idea, device, or method

: the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods

So what is missing? Well it seems like all I need to do is introduce anything new or different and I’ll be innovating. It could even be something worse.

The traditional definition of Innovation does not have any focus on value of the Innovation. This is a problem.

Action

OK Terry, well if Innovation is an outcome and not the action, what is the action that creates Innovation?

I’m glad you asked. 🙂

First off the actions that create Innovative outcomes need to be client value based and not company based. If those actions are based on value, then the Innovations will also be based on value. If we don’t base Innovations on value we really will be changing for the sake of change. Some of these changes may be home runs, but others might be duds.

In business, value is defined and determined by the client. As much as we think some product or service has value, it only really has value when the client agrees to pay something for it.

So really the only methods that can result in Innovative outcomes are those that maximize client empathy and client understanding. Only with that understanding can we understand what changes will be innovative and result in more value for your client. At the core the Innovation needs to take away a client pain or provide a client gain.

If you need to be Innovative, seek to understand your client better.

Turns out those guys like Luke Hohmann, Clay Christensen, and Alex Osterwaldner were onto something.

But please stop only using Innovation frameworks to be innovative and generate innovations. Throwing a bunch of ideas at the wall to see if some stick is time-consuming and wasteful. If you focus on understanding your clients the Innovations will follow.

If you want to be Innovative, gather true Client Insight and Empathy.

2 thoughts on “Stop just #Innovating , start #Empathizing

  1. Terry Terry Terry…as an Innovation Engineering Black Belt I will be the first to correct this post. IE isn’t solely about idea generation as you imagine. That is wrong. IE, my friend, has made and saved our clients millions…and that’s just in the last several months. Ideas, to us in the IE community mean very little. It’s about sales generated, costs saved, and patents developed. Not the hollow idea gen you speak of. So let’s talk all things innovation so we can understand one another and not let a lack of understanding fuel our opinions.

    A table topic for you to think about…you mention that “if you want to be innovative, understand your client better.” While slightly true, I’d also like to say that by merely looking at your clients as a pathway to innovation won’t take you very far. Why is that you ask? You’ll have to book lunch with me to find out 😉 let’s get it in the books.

    • Thanks for the feedback Ryan. You made me realize that my post was a bit more assertive than intended. I’ve updated it.

      My intent is that if you want to generate a sustainable innovation culture, then the focus of innovation must start and end with the client. That will generate the sales as an outcome.

      I look forward to your thoughts on how innovation can be done without focus on the clients.

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