Do we know too much? Is our knowledge killing our innovation skills and creative thinking abilities?
I was speaking at recent conference about creative thinking skills and Innovation as it relates to problem solving. The conference had over 70 people who attended my talk. The summit at which I was delivering my talk is attended by Lean problem solving leaders and employees from varied industries.
The Phone problem –
I asked everyone in 3 seconds or less to draw the picture of the object that appears on the slide. I change my presentation slide and the in big bold letters the slide read “PHONE”
All participants took a notepad and outlined a phone. They were then asked to share their drawing. Several of them had a drawing that looked like the old rotary phone (I tried to sketch it below.. not perfect, but will do the job to illustrate my point) lol.
Then i asked them – “when did they last see a phone like that?” This conference occurred in the Fall of 2020. I’ve tried this experiment with some toddlers and young kids, and I got drawings with shapes like a square or a rectangle! a sketch that looked like a mobile device or a smartphone. Isn’t that the reality – the smartphone reality? Yet we often go back to the traditional phone.
That is because our brain is a best file system in the world. the brain files away what you learnt about an object in your brain and retrieves it whenever you see the word for that object.
If we were to solve for a better phone for the future, we tend to go back to the visual we have about the product in my brain and we begin to attach things based on what we know. We’re a society of attachers and that’s not innovation that is improvement and there’s nothing wrong in improvement but that is not the objective here. As you begin to attach things to the object you have in mind you’re going to end up creating some new features for an excising product without creating or adding any new value for your customer.
Innovation is creating and adding new value to your customer.
How do you break away from the mental and visual barriers that limit innovative thinking?
To find new uses and revenue streams in your own business, explore a technique called where/when/how/who else. This gets people thinking way beyond the status quo.
Imagine you had a school bus business and you were thinking about expanding it to create more revenue for the business beyond taking kids to and from school.
Where – We’ll start by thinking about where else people could interact with our product or service? This means other cities or countries, but it also means other spaces, scenarios, or locations. When else, as in when else could people use our product or service? This refers to alternative times or other occasions, like holidays or lunch hours
How else, as in how else could people use our product or service? How else refers to alternative uses and context for your product or service. Think about the opposite of its current use or how you might package it with something else. How might an extreme user adopt it? For a school bus, an opposite could be a party bus. An alternative context is a food truck, an airport shuttle or a mobile art gallery.
Who else? Who else besides your existing customers could use our product or service? Who else means different age groups, lifestyles, audiences that your product or service doesn’t currently reach.
Once you have identified a list of different ideas, you can begin to dig deep into each idea to understand what needs to be done in order to create an experience around this idea? What capabilities are needed – are they available or do we need to develop new capabilities?
Where/when/how/who else encourages boundless thinking. It also enables your team to find new audiences, markets, and new revenue streams for current offerings.
Thanks for reading my article. You can connect with me on social media:
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