In this digital world, no one is safe. In the past year alone, traditional retailers like Sears have experienced the full impact of digital transformation. And today, other industries like financial services, healthcare, real estate, travel, and energy are beginning to worry about their future survival.
A recent study produced by consulting firm Innosight predicts that nearly 50% of the current S&P 500 companies will be replaced over the next 10 years.
With all the challenges companies are facing from digitization and automation, it is safe to say that thinking and acting more audaciously and coming up with innovative ideas has become the key to success.
The following tools will guide you on how to foster innovation within your company and help you get the most out of your talented and creative employees:
- Naive Experts – Invite a naive expert into the next ideation session you are hosting. A naive expert is someone who has no idea what you are working on. He or she will rarely, if ever, solve the challenge for you, but they will get you out of your “River of Thinking” (your own expertise) and help you think differently. They will ask the questions you are too embarrassed to ask or throw out audacious ideas, both of which will help get you to a different state of mind than you can reach by yourself.
- Where Else? This tool involves asking where in the world someone or some company has solved a similar challenge and then applies the underlying principle to the challenge at hand. In 1996, the U.S Olympic Swimming Team challenged Speedo to help their swimmers move quicker through the water. At Speedo, employees asked themselves: Where in the world has someone already solved this challenge? They thought of speedboats, torpedos, and sharks. They conducted bio-mimicry on a shark’s skin and found it has thousands of microscopic sharp pimples that help trap air bubbles that the shark can expands when it wishes to slow down or contract and reduce surface friction when it wants to move more quickly through the water. Speedo applied the same idea to the one-piece suits the U.S. swimming team wore to the Sydney Olympic Games, where they broke multiple world records.
- What If? – This is one of my favorite tools. It allows you to slay some sacred cows within your organization by asking “What If those rules didn’t exist?” It’s an easy-to-use tool and one Walt Disney perfected. Start by listing the rules of your challenge. Take one rule you want to break and ask “What If that rule didn’t exist?” Start developing, among your team, a bunch of provocative questions and innovative ideas and then imagine a world where that idea could come to fruition. Walt Disney got tired of showing his movies in old, tired movie houses. He listed all the rules of showing his movies in a movie theater and chose one to break, the environment. He asked himself “What If I could control the environment?” Well, clearly he couldn’t control the environment inside the movie theater, so Walt asked “What If I took my movies out of the theater?”, which led to “Imagine a world where I could make this happen?” This thinking process gave birth to the idea of Disneyland!
- How Might We? This is a really great tool to push yourself and your team to think differently, to get out of your River of Thinking, and to develop new creative ideas. Imagine if I asked you to help me think of what I could put inside a new car wash? You might think of water, brushes, a vacuum, a dryer, etc. But what if I asked you to help me think about what I could put in my new “auto spa”? You might throw out ideas such as masseuse, barista, manicure, robes, etc. This will immediately get you to another, very different idea. Disney Parks have Cast Members, not employees. They wear a costume not a uniform. They work onstage or backstage but, in either case, they are cast for a role in the show. That simple re-expression of their role has created one of the most famous guest service cultures in the world.