They say that you can’t make everyone happy all of the time. That may be true, but the adage ignores the possibility of crafting plans that satisfy customers, clients, and stakeholders all at once. There is a recipe that can create success in innovation projects, but it takes careful engineering and preparation to pull off, not least the right attitudes and mindsets.
Through open-mindedness and a lot of planning, you can push boundaries, secure near universal buy-in, and drive innovation with your clients and customers instead of for them.
The tendency when pitching to a CEO or senior figure is to sanitise ideas to align with your (or someone else’s) perception of their desires. This approach panders to corporate hierarchies and gets projects funded, but it doesn’t necessarily deliver true innovation. Nor does it tap into the genuine value that senior personnel can bring to a project.
It’s easy to lose sight of what success means to your customers when your efforts are focused on making internal senior stakeholders happy. You can, in fact, please both parties by taking the time to fully explore customer insights and the potential opportunities they highlight.
In the personal development world, there’s a strong belief that you must push past the confines of your comfort zone to create success. The equivalent in business is to move beyond ROI and to consider what you can do to make a serious and lasting impact. In both cases we are asked to do something awkward and perhaps unconventional, but the results can be truly fantastic.
Sit down with your co-creators, challenge and ask difficult questions, define what success really looks like, and work backwards from there.
There is no cookie-cutter secret to delivering consistently positive outcomes. Each challenge must be tackled with its own recipe(s). Even so, we have found time and time again that the following framework leads to better results:
Beginning with the end in mind is the first and most powerful step you can take towards achieving goals. It’s practically impossible to reach the desired result if you don’t first know a) what success looks like, and b) what obstacles stand in your way.
A challenge may come to you as a formal brief or as an unarticulated problem. No matter the delivery method, it’s good project planning practice to drill down to the root of what you’re trying to tackle. This can be achieved by playing with the abstraction levels to explore the current challenge (or opportunity) and the intended solution from different angles, sometimes reformulating the initial brief altogether.
You can become intimately acquainted with the task ahead by asking “Why” to see the bigger picture, as well as drilling down into the What, When, How, and Who. Instinct will often tell you that you’re on the right path to solving the issue that’s most relevant to all stakeholders - customers included. It’s this ’Goldilocks’ approach to planning and scoping that is so often ignored and can pave the way to bigger and better things.
As Benjamin Franklin put it: “by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”. Conversely, you can improve your chances of succeeding by marking out plans and the progress you expect to make.
While the creative process is rarely linear, it can often be pegged against key milestones. They should be the basic output of any planning exercise and should detail:
Two heads are better than one. Ten are better still, but only if challenges are properly articulated to help them understand and contribute in a meaningful way. This is not democratised innovation, after all. Someone needs to make the difficult decisions whilst also embracing the inherent risks associated with delivering true innovations.
Innovation programs need to be brought up for air occasionally to verify that findings and intended responses are both thorough, and heading in the right direction before it’s too late to change course. This means bringing people from different worlds into the mix, seeking the perspectives of legal and regulatory professionals, technologists and scientists, through to design, commercial teams, marketers, and end users.
Co-creation breaks down siloes, aligns people behind a cause, and improves results by drawing on their individual skillsets and competencies. It’s a truly cross-functional affair that requires careful management and clear communication to ensure the best people are brought in at the opportune moment.
When combined, customer insights and expert input can reveal what must be done to unlock the best outcomes and deliver value.
Ideally, projects shouldn’t be seen in isolation and zooming out to look at the bigger picture can help to keep your plans on track. Innovation drives almost always throw up new and unexpected opportunities.
These shouldn’t be discarded, but carefully considered and analysed to unveil their full potential. Even if it means reallocation, else potentially big opportunities that reveal themselves can be lost forever.
No initiative is really a failure if it contributes to the development of technology, science, branding, or another field that better equips an organisation to respond to customer motivations. These are enablers that continuously help to give new ideas wings and drive commerciality by not constantly reinventing the wheel.
Incidentally, they’re also the building blocks with which to create products and propositions that better connect with the needs and wants of customers.
Not every initiative has to be a total game changer. Smaller, incremental changes often have a better chance of eventually getting the job done.
Oftentimes customers value absolute attention to detail over sweeping change. Great ideas are eternal, but they manifest themselves differently over time. Long-term goals should instead be used as a guiding light or ‘North Star’ with which to navigate your customer-centric innovation attempts on their unending path of improvement.
It isn’t easy to steer creative projects or transformation efforts, but a strategy and roadmap can help you to stay the course and ultimately succeed. Through continuous innovation cycles, you can lay the foundations of an ideation machine that quickly and effectively addresses the changing needs and wants of customers.
This so-called pipeline, or funnel, of ideas is what the more successful companies have mastered. Creating, managing to deliver meaning, and staying relevant in people’s lives against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world.
As we go through the ‘gears’ on a project – take product development for example - we might find that the major attributes of the product in question have been already been considered both from an insights and ideation perspective.
In such cases, we can aim for granularity and try to hone into the minute details of specific product attributes. Often, this attention to detail is exactly what emerging generations are seeking as opposed to old-school, corporate, space-age innovation.
On the other hand, you can also choose to move into the territory of ‘white spaces’, ‘blue skies’, ‘leaps’, and game-changing ideas. This kind of thinking reimagines products and solutions in a way that goes beyond existing assumptions or paradigms, moving past the current proposition or brand portfolio as we know it.
You’re probably on the right path to potential future success if an idea feels somewhat strange or unfamiliar yet simultaneously intriguing or exciting at first.
I Wish supports these initiatives by guiding the co-creation process, enabling first-hand experiences, engaging with stakeholders, and championing real people. We’re partners, facilitators, and catalysts that aim to create positive, lasting change. By tapping into our thinking and approach, you can too.