Many years ago in a social science called Economics, there was a King named Rational Actor. He was a person with unlimited time, and boundless access to information—he was like no one you’ve ever met.
When it came time for Rational Actor to innovate, he easily assembled Innovation’s Holy Grail: the-perfect-new-product-system-that-will-end-all-new-product-systems-forever.
Soon the kingdom’s young marketers came to believe the self-evident logic and beauty of the perfect NPD system, and that further discussion really wouldn’t be necessary. “Look at it! Bow before the beauty and Stage-Gate forth!”
Now, we all know this is a charade. Logic has a way of smashing into all of us darn emotional critters called humans. Planning confronts reality. “Planning is everything; the plan itself is nothing,” Eisenhower supposedly said. Wise cat, Ike.
To innovate, the Rational Actor, Homo Economicus, has to be replaced by real people—by going into the heads of actual people to see how they actually think and behave.
Is there merit to extending the hunt for marginal gains in innovation performance through improved processes and systems? There might be—but it will be less fruitful than complementing the process gains made up to now with our growing understanding of behavioral science—or, more specifically, understanding what’s going on within our own heads to expose the cognitive biases that are tripping up innovation. Your head, my head, their head, everyone’s head.
To have these biases is to be human. It’s a feature of human cognition. We’re all in this together.
There is then, a clear divide between “Homo Economicus” Innovation (i.e., traditional, rational-as-basis innovation) and Behavioral Innovation™ methodologies (i.e., human-based innovation)
There is then, a clear divide between “Homo Economicus” Innovation (i.e., traditional, rational-as-basis innovation) and Behavioral Innovation™ methodologies (i.e., human-based innovation)…but not so far as to reject what we previously learned—merely to add to it. How? By bringing the latest, smartest NPD system while also making sure your team understands:
The cognitive biases operating incessantly in your customers.
New innovation efforts with new processes typically end in frustration if you haven’t yet gone to the roots of what’s really happening with these darn humans – yourselves and your customers. Innovation shouldn’t be so hard. The hope isn’t in NPD System X.0. It’s in understanding ourselves and our customers better.
Adam Hansen is VP of Innovation and an Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.
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.