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The Best Innovations Come From Solving Patient Problems

Fall In Love with the Customer's Problem, and Not Your Idea!

You love your idea.  You birthed, nurtured, fought through corporate politics tirelessly for it.  You see its potential even when no one around you shares that passion.  But this is a one-way love fest, and the resulting delusion that can come with pride of ownership could tank your success.  Fail-safes must be put in place to ensure objectivity and maintain an ongoing perspective so that your idea actually solves the customer’s problem.

  1. Keep the customer’s problem in the forefront of everything you do.  This, of course, assumes that you have correctly identified the customer problem; be sure to use design thinking from the very start   Once you have nailed the problem, once you begin the ideation and solution development phases you’ll have plenty of queues in place that bring you back to the customer’s problem.  Everything you do should filter through, “Does this solve the customer’s problem?”.
  2. Put ideas that you love but don’t solve the customer’s problem into a dormant state.   It’s become fashionable for innovation experts to propose “kill ideas early” or to freely state “some people’s ideas are bad” in an effort to thin the idea herd.  While I agree with the importance of triaging ideas, I disagree with this attitude; it has organizational cultural implications that will limit the creativity and idea generation of the future.   Who wants to hear that their idea is bad?  No one.  And I’m sure they won’t be bringing ideas forward next time, certainly not their A-game ideas.   I prefer to build a team culture around putting ideas in a dormant state.  This implies exactly what it should, that these previously “bad” ideas, and the work that was done thus far, isn’t wasted.  Rather, it is a learning opportunity in the current state to decide what either isn’t working or what might work better.   But also, it just might not work NOW.  Maybe the idea isn’t bad, just isn’t the right time, or maybe a portion of the idea might be used on an upcoming project, or can generate thinking about something else.   It is better to have a system to catalog and store these “dormant” ideas. These ideas are given a proper send-off, their creators thanked and given credit, it is cataloged for tracking purposes, and then put in a dormant state.   This attitude is better for the team culture in that an idea that demonstrates that all ideas have value.
  3. Create a culture of respectful honesty and transparency.   It is important to develop a culture where questioning the value of an idea (whether it solves the customer problem) can be asked by anyone at any time.  A culture that doesn’t support this, or leadership that consciously or unconsciously contradicts this, is the fastest and costliest road to irrelevancy.  Support environments that produce solutions to problems. 

A laser focus on the customer’s problem and full support of a collaborative and transparent culture is your best innovation approach to finding the best solutions to your customer's problem.