Ten Critical Questions to Answer to Drive Innovation

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Radical innovation is going to be a critical component in a leader’s toolkit in the future, and this does not mean that you “try to innovate” over a week-end brainstorming retreat. True innovation happens by disrupting the current environment, challenging old assumptions and even turning the culture upside down so that you can take a creative idea, turn it into a product or service and successfully move it to the marketplace.Each day I meet business leaders, and one of the first questions I ask is “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being super sticky, how stuck are you?” Most people laugh, and they usually respond by saying “I’m a 20 or a 25!” So, when you are stuck, you have to break up the pattern . . . turn a table upside down and figure out a way to still use the table as an eating surface, roll out of bed on the other side, shave with the hand you don’t normally use . . . do something to be disruptive. This is the same for companies. What would happen if you do the opposite of what you’ve always done? What would you do if you totally destroyed your most profitable item and had to start from scratch? Or, how would an artist, physician or scientist suggest that you change your products or services?

When I coach business leaders on the topic of innovation, we usually start with the following questions.

What have you done in the last year to get engaged with your imagination and the imagination of others?

Being stuck in a rut won’t get you very far when it comes to innovation. Get out there and get your brain turbo-charged with creativity. Art houses, skateboarding events, movies, food, music and travel can serve as catalysts to get you thinking more creatively.

What is the pain being experienced in the marketplace?

People usually buy to address a pain or to solve a problem. Don’t assume you know what pains people are feeling. Ask your clients and perform as many interviews and surveys as possible to discover repeating patterns of struggle.

What are people searching for online?

By using a keyword suggestion tool such as http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com, you can discover current, relevant and popular keywords which can help you consider where to go next in the marketplace. If people are searching for it, that means they will most probably buy it.

What tasks can be achieved more efficiently and effectively in business?

Business leaders are constantly asking “What can we do now to improve our efficiency and be more productive right now?” If your product or service can help answer this question through your next product or service, you can help fill the productivity void.

If you were to take your business and merge it with a business that is completely different than your own, what products and services would emerge?

If you are a financial consultant, and you merge your business with a physician, what products or services would you develop? If you are an ice cream shop owner, and you married your business with a law firm, what products and services would you design? While these questions may seem far-fetched, they can stretch your mind into new territory and right into a new idea for your business.

What are the political pundits arguing about?

You only need to turn on CNN or Fox News for one hour a day to learn what the big debates are around the world. Debate creates a craving for a solution, and your next big idea might just be the answer to the current great debate.

What seems to be constantly breaking, and how can you fix it?

People are sick and tired of complexity and things not working. Broken technology gets in our way and sucks up our energy, time and resources. People will buy a new product or service that if they know it’s going to work and if their buying experience is hassle free.

Who are the most creative people you know?

When great minds mix together, the perfect innovation storm happens. Look closely at your network, and bring together the smartest, most wildly creative people you know for a few hours of fun discussion about the next big, cool opportunity.

If you could change the world with the resources you have in your life (including people, knowledge, money and time), what product or service would you develop?

This is a question that most people hedge on by saying “Well, my resources are really limited.” That is just ridiculous. Some of the best ideas have been born by people with no money, sitting in a garage with a friend and a $300.00 Best Buy computer. Sit down with a few friends, and answer this question and by all means, don’t censor yourself. Every idea is fodder for discussion.

Who is going out of business and why?

Doors to businesses are closing right and left, and the question is “Why?” Something obviously went wrong, or plans were changed, or something in the global economy is going awry. Get out there and find out what shifts are happening in business. Your next product or service may just help business owners keep their doors open.

 

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