To successfully foster an innovation, you have to look through at least six different sets of eyes.
First, you have to unlearn everything you know. Admit it. You are biased, pre-programmed, and your bonus is tied into business results. Apply sincere empathy with people who do not know as much as you.
To enter a beginner’s mind and renew how you see the context of the market, you will need to both hang out with “naive consumers” and also look through the eyes of The Consumer.
Next, you have to gain the perspective of The Hunter. The Hunter’s sight scans the horizon for opportunity and acts on instinct to locate its game.
Sense the risks, discern the energies of the culture, understand how decisions are made, find partners, know the inherent biases, and mentally chart out where hurtles and traps may be.
Then, you have to take on the eyes of The Farmer. First look at the existing culture – where is the ground receptive to new concepts and new ideas of growth? What work needs to be done to ready the culture for new growth?
Where is the best place to grow something new – in an old bed of an existing brand or a new one? What kind of nutrients does it take? Give it the sun of attention or the shade of a skunk works? Should we plant a few first and see how it reacts to the environment – hold a pilot in a representative store?
Then, look through the eyes of The Poet, the root word of which is “poiesis,” which means “to make.” The tools of poetry and the charge to explore possibilities, deal with multiple drafts, iterate relentlessly on this relentless quest for the truth and for creating real value and delight for consumers.
After stealing lightning from the gods of inspiration as poets, it is time to see likeThe Designer, the ones who craft objects into indelible experiences, optimizing crude prototypes into desired iterations of wonder, beauty and sublime functionality.
At this point, the time has come to re-enter the lens of The Consumer again. As you move through rounds of co-creation of the prototypes, you can plug into the how much consumers or customers will desire your products or services, and learn what they may change to improve them.
To re-enter the enterprise, apply the eyes of The Business. You have already seen through most of the lens of the prism that are necessary to generate new value. You know what the market desires.
Now, apply an analytic overlay and figure out costs, go-to-market plans, and sell the portfolio of concepts to internal stakeholders. Why does it matter to the organization? How does it help us in the short and long term?
Without looking through a variety of lenses, an innovation can be pitifully myopic. By ensuring such projects look through various perspectives as part of the process, the chances of launching, market acceptance and market penetration are much greater.
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Michael Graber is the co-founder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation and earned an MFA from the University of Memphis. Follow Michael @SouthernGrowth