1. DO SOMETHING NEW FOR THE FIRST TIME
Original thinking, disruptive concepts, and new-to-world products demand both inventive and pragmatic thinking. Constantly in search of what next, we often forget what new really feels like. So this coming year, plan to remind yourself what it feels like to experience something new for the very first time. Plan opportunities to do the sublime and the ridiculous for the very first time, and plan these events throughout the year. Challenge yourselves to sky-diving, improv class, growing your own vegetables, and cooking a 5 course meal for 20 of your colleagues. Or brew your own beer, plan an InnovationFest, take a car engine apart and put it back together, then take the car to the race track. Do something new for the first time, record and discuss the observations, and share what is learned.
2. THINK BIG AND DO SMALL
Every CEO wants big, transformational innovation that can move the company, the brand or a division forward by leaps and bounds. This demands significant development time and resources and the results don’t normally hit the market for 18 to 36 months. It’s equally important to target small, incremental innovation opportunities that can impact the business today. Make sure you plan and set expectations for a good balance of singles, doubles and triples for the next 36 months.
3. BE A CONNECTION ENGINE
Who you know can be almost equally as important as what you know, and what you know can definitely come from who you know. Take the time to look at your network carefully and identify where you’ve got knowledge, inspiration and expertise gaps. Reach out and ask for recommendations for people and organizations to fill in the gaps. It might sound clinical, but rank and organize your network internally and externally, professionally and personally, ensuring that you have a well-balanced network feeding into your innovation motor.
4. BE RELATIONAL NOT TRANSACTIONAL
If who you know is important, the rich, two-way exchange of information, ideas and inspiration happens most effectively when you actually get to know the other person. Take the time to make sure you really know the people on your team, your colleagues and your partners. Make sure you know what gets them up every day, what’s important in their lives and what their values are. The more you know about each other, the more you have a relationship built on knowledge and trust. Sounds elementary, but you’ll be surprised what you learn, what you have in common and the quality of ideas you’ll exchange.
5. CELEBRATE AND COMMUNICATE YOUR SUCCESSES
No matter what anyone says, innovation is hard for many reasons, and having the fortitude to keep swinging takes a combination of capability, commitment, courage, and communication. It’s important to communicate regularly with humility and pride about the successes and the failures you and your teams have. In many organizations, innovation teams sit out on the fringes, often by design and oftentimes because they just don’t promote their purpose effectively. This year become storytellers: inspire the rest of the company with stories of each key project and the highlights from the journey from insight to in-market, sharing key findings, challenges, and results. Be brief, visual, inspiring–do it consistently, digitally, dimensionally, live or via exhibits or experiences, but communicate your successes. Schedule the celebrations when you’re successful on the journey, not just when you reach the finish line.
6. SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF INNOVATION CLEARLY
Look at your own organization and you might find everyone interprets the language around innovation slightly differently. What does it mean when you say territory, idea, position, concept or brand? Do people outside of your organization speak the same language that you use internally? Take the time to examine the language you use, how key stakeholders use and interpret it, and ensure you communicate clearly and consistently so everyone working with you is speaking (and more importantly, hearing) the same language.
7. PROTOTYPE WITH SIMPLICITY AND SPEED
No matter how hard you try, process and systems get slow and more cumbersome over time. Take a good hard look at how long it takes you to move from basic insights to market-ready concepts and identify where you can simplify your process, and where you can increase your speed to market. Rapidly re-prototype your innovation process around speed and simplicity.
8. DO RESEARCH DIFFERENTLY
If your research isn’t a dynamic and inspiring part of your project process, if it’s not rich in insights, dimensional and inspiring, it’s time to look at how you and your partners go about research. Discovering consumer insights, observing your customers and analyzing your data should be a passionate, analytical and dimensionally experiential start to every project. Challenge your team and research partners to elevate the potency of your research.
9. BE A GLOBAL CITIZEN
Whether your marketplace for innovation is domestic or international, staying connected, aware and inspired by what’s happening globally is key. Scheduling well-planned, in-person trend immersion trips to key cities might not be in your budget, but ensure you get well synthesized insight and rich trend research that covers what’s next regionally and globally.
10. PICK A FIGHT
When you’ve got an opponent to beat, it increases your motivation to win. This year, choose an enemy to fight and rally your team around it. Make it a competitor, a trend or an element of your internal culture, and put it up on the wall so your team can find motivation and focus in it.
Shawn Parr is the The Guvner and CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego. Clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, IDEO, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision.