t’s common for businesses to prioritize solving the easy problems while delaying the greater efforts needed to solve the hard problems. It’s usually a low-risk (at least short-term), low-effort and low-cost approach that can return incremental advantages within a single budget cycle. The collective and cumulative effects of that habit are that we usually witness the emergence of parity stop-gap solutions across an industry. Eventually parity leads to price comparisons and margin reduction until some entity finally takes on the risk of investing enough time and treasure to take on the hard problem.
In the three blog posts prior to this one, we explored the macro trends emerging from our collective experiences with COVID-19. It appears they might affect the way we all conduct business for the foreseeable future, if not permanently.
You’ve undoubtedly been in brainstorming sessions. Some of these sessions have likely been fruitful, others disappointing. We often get asked how ideation is different from brainstorming on “Brilliant.”— a podcast hosted by Magnani’s president. One guest distinguished the two types of sessions by asserting most brainstorms are simply “meetings… with better food.” But beyond that perhaps undeserved jab at brainstorming, there are several aspects that separate brainstorms from formal ideation.
There’s a classic Venn diagram generally attributed to Ideo’s Tim Brown that points to the reality that for an idea to be considered an innovation, it needs to satisfy three criteria: desirability (people would want it), feasibility (it is something that can realistically be created) and viability (it can be made and offered in a way that makes financial sense for the business). Academics or inspired home tinkerers may be satisfied with any combination of one or two of these qualities, but a business, especially a publicly held business, needs to satisfy all three.
What most people forget about the most game-changing innovations is that, more often than not, they satisfied some unmet basic need in a simple way. The breadth and complexity of the effect of that innovation came later, as more and more people found more and more ways to utilize that innovation to address some variation of the original need. Keeping that in mind, if you’re charged with corporate innovation, there are a lot of reasons to focus on simple, small innovations. Let’s explore!