The word “innovation” is at times used too casually, and sometimes using it feels like crossing a mountain-high hill. Word innovation is more in the right sense when you understand it as the pursuit of something new and useful. You don’t always have to result in a market-breaking innovation.
To create an innovation, you need an idea. The idea is not the starting point, because before the idea, you need clarification, understanding, creativity, and motivation. Also, an environment that enables and allows the development of new ideas is a must. Understanding can be gained by researching and observing the users for whom the innovation is to be developed. In addition to user centered thinking, one must understand the development of new technologies, society, competitors, and the market situation.
Ideas often arise during normal activities. The maintenance staff notices and hears from customers about improvement needs. Salespeople are constantly in contact with the customers. Designers come up with new solutions. Sometimes new ideas can be implemented immediately, but often you have to wait for the right moment.
A system must be created for storing and processing ideas. There must be an idea bank to store all ideas together with their evaluations, responsible persons, and utilization schedule.
When working with ideas, it’s important to ensure as early as possible whether the idea is usable, or should it be rejected. Ideas can be tested in easy and creative ways before they have been developed into finished products.
A useful method for starting innovation is to gather suitable experts in a meeting room and together with them create a description of the current situation and targets. At Huld, we use a workshop model called Huld Design Puzzle, in which a visual big picture is created together. In this visualization, all stakeholders, different processes, and relevant events are described in a suitable manner. The purpose is to visualize all relevant material, knowledge, and product flows and the most important hot spots. The form of the description varies depending on the case.
By describing the current situation, hot spots and new opportunities can be found. It’s possible to find new connections, “aha experiences”, and to discover something that wasn’t previously found. The visual description is easy to understand and explain to the rest of the organization.
Once the big picture is under control, separate needs and challenges may arise, which then are seeds for future innovations. They can mean the development of a new technology or improvements in the operating model. When concentrating on details, it’s important to check their importance and visibility in the big picture. Steps can be taken forward, even if every detail is not optimized.
Innovation requires cooperation. Accepting and understanding the common vision is the first goal, for the development work to hit the same goal. For this, internal sales and cooperation are needed. New ideas must be opened, and the benefits clarified, so that everyone can become their supporters. Different methods can be used to sell visions. A good way, for example, is to make a future advertisement or magazine article about a novelty that is still just a vision or idea.
Inventing, refining, and managing ideas is the basis of the development work. The innovation phase must be given its own time, place, and resources. It must be free from the schedule pressures and precise goals of R&D processes. As a result of the creative phase, tested ideas are created. Those tested ideas can then be used in product development when the time is right.