1. Develop an Eye for Opportunity
Playing a musical instrument doesn’t come naturally to most, and even when it does, long hours of practice are typically involved. The same is true for identifying opportunities for innovation. The best source for inspired innovative ideas are found by searching for frustrations and making an effort to understand them. Remember that not all pain is felt equally by consumers. Small pains are just inconveniences, not frustrations. However, by understanding the differences and focusing on a true frustration, energy and attention can be expended in the right places. Most importantly, tuning in to frustrations, rather than inconveniences, creates an opportunity to build solutions that your customers effortlessly love.
2. Break it Down
Once a frustration is identified, it’s important to break it down and understand it in its most fundamental form. Create an actionable definition of the frustration. Consider it from the perspective of the users and break the frustration down into two parts…what is the important task the user needs to accomplish and what barriers are outside of their sphere of influence, thus preventing them from achieving their goals.
3. Back to Basics
After a frustration is broken down, it’s time to define it in the most generic or basic of terms. Any pain point has multiple resolutions, and only in its most basic form can answers from every angle be taken into consideration. Think about Dyson. The popular line of vacuums originated from the designer’s personal frustration with traditional vacuums and their reduced performance with use. He didn’t focus on how to create a better vacuum filter. Instead he asked himself how to filter air in a way that doesn’t get clogged up. The result is a line of high performing and successful vacuums adorned with his name.
4. Resolve, Reuse and Recycle
While reviewing options for solutions, consider the fact that there are very few new ideas out there. A great way to resolve product or feature problems is to consider similar problems and solutions within other domains. Broaden the idea of what other items might be relevant in order to really flex those creative muscles. For example, Amazon’s Kindle was not the first gadget that would allow consumers to read books electronically. However, consumers had not widely adopted e-Readers until they were provided with a model for purchasing, storing and reading these books, in essence solving consumers’ prior frustrations.
5. Avoid the Curse of Knowledge
Prior knowledge of a subject can actually stifle innovative thinking. Take a short break from being an expert, and look at things with fresh and naive eyes. Let yourself see how those silly ideas can turn into great innovations. A great example of a product that avoided the curse of knowledge was the Toyota Prius. The market was primed for the launch of a car of this nature, but many other companies had already failed when trying to create a hybrid vehicle. Toyota was able to break through the traditional thoughts of hybrids, and create new standards in performance through years of focus on innovation.
Entrepreneurs have built-in radar for new opportunities, and the ability to hone in on the uniqueness of a product or service will only enhance this inherent skill.
Take into account a company like Quirky that develops new products and sells them within big box retailers. Spotting innovation is part of the company’s foundation. Before any products are made, users’ ideas are crowdsourced and voted on, then reviewed by professionals. Fostering a community of innovation has created a hub for not only identifying the next new thing, but for encouraging others to think outside the box day in and day out. Quirky exemplifies an ecosystem of fostering and producing innovation.
While inspiration and creativity are important elements to a successful business or product, entrepreneurs can always work on developing an eye for innovation. The media, the public and the business world are hungry for truly disruptive technologies and ideas. Identifying and thinking as an innovator provides the tools to take a business idea to the next level.