Innovation Perspectives – 3 Steps to Caffeinate Your Innovation

by Mike Dalton

This is the fifth of several ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on ‘What are three specific actions that a non-innovative company can take to become more innovative?’. Here is the next perspective in the series:

by Mike Dalton

Innovation Perspectives - 3 Steps to Caffeinate Your Innovation1. Narrow your focus

While concentrating too hard on one thing can cause you to mistake the forest for the trees, that’s hardly the problems in companies today. No, I normally find companies spreading people too thinly – dealing with anywhere between five and ten projects at the same time.

The so-called multi-tasking required to survive this situation puts people in a constant state of distraction (beta brainwave state) as they switch back and forth between tasks. It also means that they spend a higher percentage (greater than 70% by some estimates) of their time on the non-value added activity of juggling tasks.

Instead, determine the number of projects you can do with people assigned to only one project at a time. You’ll find people more effective and more engaged because a much higher percentage of their time is spent in a productive flow or focused performance state (alpha brain wave) instead of managing multiple priorities.

With this approach, you’ll run far fewer projects at any given time, but get them done much faster. While this may seem counter-intuitive, you’ll also get far more projects done in the same period of time.

2. Get out of your environment and into theirs

Yes, an aesthetically pleasing work environment, one with wide-open spaces, natural light, and great views can be inspiring. But that’s missing the point when it comes to innovation.

The environment that is the source of innovation is out in the marketplace with customers, economic-buyers and end-users. That’s where the unmet needs are. Where you can observe customers in action and understand all the things in their work or home lives that are complex, inconvenient, dirty, boring or costly – the unmet need that you can develop products or services to address.

3. Never stop asking why

And while you are out in the customer’s environment, the single most powerful question you can ask is why. Because asking why leads you to the real problem – the source of their real needs.

When interviewing customers and digging into their problems, the first answers you get might be superficial—often highlighting what they want rather than what they need and will buy. But continue to ask why, five or more times, until you get to the actionable root cause and you’ll have the basis for a solution or at least a direction for developing one.

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You can check out all of the ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles from the different contributing authors on ‘What are three specific actions that a non-innovative company can take to become more innovative?’ by clicking the link in this sentence.


Mike DaltonMike Dalton is the Chief Innovation Coach for Guided Innovation Group and the author of “Simplifying Innovation” and the Simplifying Innovation Blog. Guided Innovation Group has a simple mission – helping companies turn their new product innovation into more bottom-line impact.

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