Innovation Impatience In the Here & Now

how-to-get-rid-of-ring-around-the-collarDon’t let your impatience to innovate the future blind you to the present.

“Attending to the present pays dividends in two crucial ways,” says says Dr. Jeanne Liedtka, a professor at the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia.

“First, it helps broaden, and perhaps even change completely, our definition of the problem or opportunity we want to tackle.”

Author of Solving Business Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works, Liedtka (@jeanneliedtka) warned that too narrow a definition of the innovation investigation can cause us to “unwittingly throw away all kinds of opportunities for innovation.”

“Second, this attention to the present helps uncover unarticulated needs,” she says as part of Coursera’s course on Design Thinking. “And those are the kind that we want to build profitable businesses.”

Some examples of those needs (or wants) include a laundry detergent called Wisk that was sold in the US.

Their marketing gurus came up with the idea of cleaning “ring around the collar” from mens’ shirts. I was reliably informed when I first visited America in the 1980s that no one had ever heard that term until Wisk started advertising.

They were so successful in articulating this new need that they made in to Advertising Age’s Top 100 campaigns of the 20th Century along with the Marlboro Man, “just do it” and “diamonds are forever.”

Finding these needs also saves the firm’s innovation team from relying solely on their own imaginations for solutions.

“And it gives us solid, and ideally, deep insight into what our stakeholders truly want and need,” Liedtka says.

It also improves the chances of success, she adds, because it “reduces the risk of failure with a new idea.”

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