Last week I shared my contention that innovation is nothing more, and nothing less, that finding new ways to bring real value to others. (Value being defined as some perceived benefit divided by some perceived cost). I promised in that posting to share the two elements that I think are important if you want to be intentional about bringing new value to the world. The first element is what I’ll write about today, and I’ll write about the second element next week. 

The first element of innovation, which we define as intentionally creating new value, is a relatively simple process that will produce better ideas for new value rather than just trying to come up with them willy nilly. You know by now that we like simplicity, at least as a place to start. Because of that value, our process is based on many other already established processes, some of which have similar steps. Ours is maybe a bit simpler.

Step 1: Identify the opportunity
first step is to identify the opportunity to bring new value to the world. For us it might be, “How could we bring new value to alumni of LEAD 24/7?” (See note below if you don’t know what LEAD 24/7 is.)

Step 2: Discovery
The second step is to discover all of the pertinent information about the area of new value that we are seeking to provide. In the case of our example, this includes understanding what value is already being offered to you alumni and how it is being received.

Step 3: Incubate
third step is to live in the creative tension for a while, which is set up by wondering about what you could do with all of the new information from the discovery phase without jumping to ideas and conclusions. We all calling this incubation (thanks to a prior mentor of mine who used this term).

The unconscious part of the brain will work on this creative tension when we forget about the desire for a solution in the conscious part of the brain. This is why ideas come to us when we’re doing routine and tedious tasks like mowing the lawn, showering, driving, or working out. I have a friend who coined a line that I like about workouts. Her name is Leigh Conant and her line is, “It’s amazing what you can work out when you work out.” These are often the times when the unconscious and more creative parts of the brain brings good ideas to light.

Step 4: Generate Ideas
fourth step of our process is to come up with lots of ideas about how more value can be achieved within the identified opportunity. Some ideas may seem crazy when they are suggested, but sometimes they end up being not so crazy, or they lead to other ideas that prove valuable.

It’s most common to use our own expertise when looking for these ideas, but often the best ideas come from something completely outside the purview of what’s being considered. This may be the main difference between using this process as a simple problem-solving tool versus a true innovation tool.

In our example, this would mean that rather than looking only within our world of LEAD 24/7 alums to think about how we could bring you new value, we would instead look outside of that purview—maybe into how colleges do it, or NASA with former astronauts, or the NFL with former players, or the entertainment business and performing arts. Some of the best and most creative ideas will come from other areas.

Step 5: Narrow Down Ideas
fifth step in our very simple and very common process is to narrow down the multitude of ideas from the previous step to only those ideas those that have the most promise. This can be done just using common sense OR by using some predetermined criteria. These could be some key values or something I’ve heard described as filters. In our case, one filter might be, “This can’t cost a lot of money because we don’t plan to charge our alums for it.”

Step 6: Choose Best Options. Get Feedback
sixth step is to test out our best ideas. This is done by figuring out effective ways of communicating the best ideas to likely customers and then gathering their feedback. The best way to communicate seems to be to create examples of the idea and then have customers engage those examples so they really understand what’s being described. If that’s too difficult, at least in the earlier stages, other great ways to communicate are through sketches and stories that describe how the ideas would work.

In the case of our example, we might describe to several of you an event we are considering offering, including lots of details of how it would work, and then get feedback from you.

Step 7: Tweak the Best Idea. Get More Feedback
After gathering this initial feedback, our
seventh step is to try out the best idea for real. In the case of a physical product, this means creating the product, or several of them, and having customers use it. Of course, this almost goes without saying, but gathering customer’s honest feedback is crucial in this trial or pilot phase.

In our example, we might actually hold the event in consideration to see how many sign up for it and to learn from attendees what they thought of it.

Step 8: Launch!
In our
eighth and final step of this new-value creation process, we would make any changes that would improve the product or service and then go forward with the regular production of it.

Next week I will talk about what kind of people have the best results with this kind of process. They are the people that produce more innovation than others. Can you guess what might be unique about them?

I hope you’ll check that out.

Be great this week!

PS: LEAD 365 is becoming LEAD 24/7. You’ll see us using the new name in these blog posts going forward.

Image by marcoverch. Used under CC BY 2.0 license.