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How to Prevent Innovation From Being Just Plain Boring

The Build It Or Bury It Concept Test

17Aug

You see it every day. Brands talking about how innovative they are, how this new widget will transform their business, and how millions of consumers will run to the nearest store and buy, buy, buy! But if you look a little closer at many of the brands, the new widget is actually just a new bit of coloured plastic, a dodgy phone app, or a brand tie-up with a film or a tourism experience. It may be a new way of doing things (for the brand), but I wouldn’t call it innovation (see my previous post on definition of innovation).

I believe innovation is more about business solutions:

"Deeply understanding the business problem clients face, and then applying properly practiced creativity, a little rule breaking, and collaboration, to delivery solutions that solve the problem, have a positive impact on the brand and drives real growth."

Unfortunately, much ‘so called’ innovation is just gimmicky or a dull attempt to attract attention. It hasn't changed the firm, or the interaction between a business and its customers. And if it doesn't change things, frankly, what’s the point.

In my role, I am keen to ensure that innovation is central to our business, and that we are always innovating in the true sense of the word. But that doesn't mean I think that just any kind of innovation is mandatory for ourselves, or indeed, for the firms we assist. Innovation should be transformative and build new connections. Innovation is inspiring and exciting when it helps change the way a business operates, and when both companies and their customers get more from the exchanges. It helps build productivity, and it makes companies great to work with. Most importantly, innovation should lead to growth.

Surrounded by ideas everyday, I came up with a short questionnaire to help test if it is a truly innovative concept. I use it as a basic tool, a litmus test, to provide guidance.

THE BUILD IT OR BURY IT CONCEPT TEST

  1. Does the concept change the way your firm makes its products/does business?
  2. Does it change the way you communicate with customers?
  3. Is it tapping in to talent and ideas normally outside the firm?
  4. Is it giving customers more choice?
  5. Does it respond to changes in consumer/business behaviour?
  6. Is the value of the innovation easy to understand (even if it is a technically complex solution)?
  7. Will its development inspire story-telling?
  8. Is it genuinely new, and not just a new costume for old products and practice?
  9. Are you getting people calling you up to see how they can get in on the project?

… and finally...

10. Are you SO EXCITED about your innovation that you want to spend all your spare time thinking about it?

If your concepts all get YES responses to these questions, then congratulations, YOU HAVE A COOL INNOVATION. Actually I want to know about it, and to buy it. If you get a YES to more than seven questions, then you may still have a good set of ideas, and we should talk more about how we can make it even more exciting. If you get a YES to only five questions, you probably need to go back and think about how you can generate more change - to markets, to your business, and probably to your agency! But if you got a YES to less than five questions, then think seriously, pivot, apply your learning, or move on!

What do you think of my test? How do your own innovations stand up to it? Should I add any further criteria? Share your thoughts with me in comments, below!

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