Smart Questions

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The best innovations are those that come from smart questions. As a student, Dr. William Hunter, a leading cell biologist and CEO of Vancouver -based Angiotech Pharmaceuticals, was told by one professor that the difference between good science and great science is the quality of the questions posed. Leaders seeking killer ideas that will lead to innovative products have found that asking unusual, challenging and probing questions can be the key.
What are the right questions to ask? One approach is based on the notion that most new innovations are often novel combinations of elements (ideas, innovations, products) that already exist in some form. The key to this approach is a collection of questions that can significantly enhance the creative process by helping to systematically explore alternative combinations.
Such an approach could, of course, be used with purely random combinations. However, by structuring the questions around specific areas of innovation, you can greatly increase the likelihood that killer ideas will be generated.
These specific areas of innovation were derived by researching a wide range of products and services. By grouping these innovations, it was found that highly successful products and services fell into seven areas:
1. A new business in an industry which a company has not previously competed or when there is no overlap in customer value proposition. (Virgin Mobile)
2. Expanding into a new geographic area with high value-added transfer from an existing geography. (Motorola Pagers in China)
3. Changing the value proposition, value delivery system or competitive relationship that improve/change the industry structure or refine the industry. (Walmart)
4. Creating an innovation that redesigns the business system sufficiently to alter the value proposition. (FedEx)
5. Creating new products or services, normally in a cocooned manner. (IBM PC)
6. Modifying existing products/services for a new and distinct customer segment(s). (Hummer 2)
7. Innovating products/services that extend the offerings to existing customers. (mobile phones)
Within each of these areas, radical/unique questions are posed that force a change in perspective. From each question, a team can create a collection of ‘killer ideas' that provide a rich pool from which the next innovation can be pulled from.
Next: Sample Questions

Smart Questions
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