25 Easy Ways to Stimulate Innovation, and Never Get Stuck Again31 January, 2017 / Articles
Innovation is no fun when you’re staring down an oppressively blank sheet of paper, but you don’t have to go it alone. Here’s my list of 25 prompts guaranteed to get the innovation juices flowing, a list distilled from my speeches and workshops and work as an innovation culture consultant.
- Borrow a concept from nature. Earthworms that are cut in half can’t actually regenerate from both pieces, but that we want it to be true shows that it’s a great concept. Caterpillars metamorphosing into butterflies, owls seeing at night, and don’t forget the humble mouse that became an essential adjunct to the graphic user interface (GUI).
- Channel a particular visionary or vision. Take your product or service and Bob Fosse it or Jony Ive it or Frank Lloyd Wright it or Oprah it. Even though you consider Bambi to be as American as french fries, it drew its distinctive look from ancient Chinese art.
- Take an approach from another industry. What would Starbucks do? Walmart? Cleveland Clinic? Harley Davidson? Drybar? The Genius Bar isn’t something the Apple Stores borrowed from Best Buy or another electronics retailer; rather, they emulated the concierge areas long established in luxury hotels to come up with this wildly-successful feature of the Apple Stores.
- Try the opposite of your normal approach, or look for opportunities at the other end of the process. You’re trying to be the cheapest provider, but what would the premium version look like? Right now you sell diapers, but the diaper market is, uh, saturated. How about diaper disposal?
- Invoke a different emotion. Maybe you are selling on fear, but you should be selling on hope. Or vice versa.
- Change the terms: rent vs. buy, long-term vs. short-term, etc. Disney succeeds in getting people to “invest” in buying DVD and Blu-ray even in this world of streaming, while Netflix, Audible, and many others have succeeded by going in more or less the opposite direction, promoting a subscription model, where nothing is owned or even rented.
- Change the timing. Sell them breakfast when you were previously only open for lunch and dinner (McDonald’s); for that matter, sell them breakfast all day! Promote health-club membership purchases in August instead of around New Year’s. Ask customers to join your loyalty program at a different moment in their relationship with you. Offer them a drink while the plane is still languishing on the ground, rather than waiting until mid-flight.
- Invent or embrace “off-label” uses. Invent new uses for your existing product, or embrace the ways that customers are already using your product that are different from your original intention.
- Combine existing elements. Even though early smartphones weren’t particularly great as phones (soundwise) or as cameras (quality-wise), the combination of features–the ability to have your camera everywhere your phone is, and to have it connected to the rest of the world via a phone “line”—has changed the world.
- Remove features. Do your customers actually want the mishmash of features you’re including, or do they feel, rightly or wrongly, that your “generosity” means they’re paying for features they never use?
- Add features. Maybe your product or service doesn’t include everything they want. What’s missing?
- Do what you do but in a different medium. Substituting voice recognition for keyboard input is essential to the “magic trick” effect of Siri, et. al.
- Add humor. Consider the world-famous CD Baby confirmation letter, which turns a typically-boring touchpoint (the email shipping confirmation for the customer’s order) as a way to get across the soul of its brand and build a bond with the customer, through humorous hyperbole. (Disclosure: the company I founded, Oasis Disc Manufacturing, is a sister company to CD Baby.)
- Add nostalgia. The Hanx Writer that turns your i-device into a typewriter, complete with clanking keys and appropriate sounds when you “return the carriage” is an adorable example of this approach.