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How Do You Keep Strategic Momentum Going?

In the first part of this two-part series on Sustaining Innovation Momentum, I talked about several metaphors that capture the excitement of Ideation and Concept Development and laid out how acknowledging—and embracing—risk upfront can push you to The Ideal outcomes. 

Here, I take on:

  • Recasting newly identified issues/problems as jobs
  • Appreciating the value of bringing issues/problems to the surface

Recasting Newly Identified Issues/Problems as Jobs

Many people don't want to work on the issues that we identify as being strategically vital to solve. Some of these, thankfully, we call "Competitors."  Where we can identify a distinct and relevant set of issues to tackle, we create competitive advantage.  If what we create there is sufficiently unique and relevant, then we make the competition play catch-up. If we continue to push in the direction of taking on tougher or more sophisticated issues in these areas that matter to the market, they'll be catching up for a longer time.  

Problems are neon-festooned starting points for breakthroughs.  If we don't take problems as intractably "Accepted Real," we can start the business of creating "Made Real" breakthroughs.  We must get to the very real business of taking on the former by passionately challenging assumptions around them, so that we can Real-ize as many of the latter as our imagination, resources and strategy will allow.  We begin by laying out the beliefs, fears and expected actions of both customers and internal players and pulling together thoughts on both the Human and Technical/Development critical paths.

Appreciating The Value of Bringing Issues to the Surface

And with all that in mind, we can see why it's so important to get those great concepts from an ITG Ideation and Concept Development session, with a list of issues.  This does two important things.  

First, we start to clarify what you mean when you say X about a product - is that what I'm thinking when I hear or say that myself?  We start to understand what's really going on around a new idea. We start to see what we all individually see as being the truly big Issue Bears (which are sometimes those we're least familiar with, whereas someone on our team may either see them as being cuddly teddy bears or even more threatening Mad Momma Grizzly Issue Bears, which info we would want to get so we can learn).  Through this discussion, we can start coming to some group insight on the prioritized order of threats we'll need to take on.

Second, knowing the issues will jumpstart iteration.  As the sage Fake Grimlock says, "Iterate Until Awesome." Starting fast cycles of make, test, fail, learn (lather, rinse, repeat, if you will) makes much more sense than speculating in rounds of meetings why you can't do anything uniquely relevant.  T.N. Vail said, "Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable." Part of the Ideal  → Real work is seeing which of the early difficulties are truly unsolvable problems vs. those tasks that we're actually interested in taking on to create competitive distancing.  This iteration is what sets up multiple cycles at the Ideal → Real Frontier.

Take on some/any/all of the above and you will have no space in your head for the Seminar Effect to take root.  We promise you a heady gust of strategic innovation momentum coming out of our sessions, and would love to do more to help you maintain it throughout your development cycle.  Let us hear it!  Tell us what your experience has taught you about this.  Let's get some dialogue going about sustained momentum. Let's fan that innovation flame.  

©2012 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

Adam Hansen

Adam Hansen is co-author of the book, "Outsmart Your Instincts: How the Behavioral Innovation™ Approach Drives Your Company Forward," and Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go – an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies to incorporate the voice of the consumer in ideation and concept development.