Setting The Right Innovation Focus


If you are a regular reader of the blog and/or listener of the podcast, your familiar with the basic foundation of the Killer Innovations approach is to define the area of focus for an innovation and then ask the “right question” (If you are not, go have a listen). I've covered the topic of killer question but what I haven't addressed much is how to define and describe the innovation focus so that the team can comprehend the challenge yet be open to create the breakthrough.

Let's say you have a team that tasked with developing some new ideas/products that your company can sell around a computer mouse. How do you challenge the team to breakout and come up with something that is truly radical?

The typical approach would be to look at existing products in the market and then tweak the aesthetics. Fairly mundane and the results are me-to products. However, if one takes a few steps back and looks at the task in a broader sense, the challenge changes considerably. For example:

  1. design a mousepad (MUNDANE)
  2. design of a new environment to work a mouse in (INTERESTING)
  3. design of a new hands-based computer control interface (CHALLENGING)

With (1), the team is very much fixed by the immediate product that interacts with the mousepad- the mouse. Solutions are likely to be based on the stereotyped existing product- a flat shaped surface that allows smooth mouse movement.

With (2), opportunities arise where the team can explore how the mouse is used and provide solutions that do not necessarily involve the mouse being flat on a table, or even on anything at all. Note that with (2), the team is still tied down by having to design around a stereotypical mouse.

In the case of (3), the team is left with a great deal of freedom and can design a system which redefines the environment between the user and machine.

So, if you were going to construct the “challenge” for the team, which do you believe would get you a killer idea that would be game changing?

Some tricks/tools in writing an “innovation focus” statement:

  • abstract your current products/services (mouse = method to controlling a PC)
  • validate the scope (current method to control a computer = hand or something broader)
  • write and re-write the focus statement
  • test and re-test the focus statement as way to ensure while giving guidance
  • repeat – abstract it further and repeat the process . . .


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