Secrets to innovation lie in aspiration combined with consumer empathy!
By Bob Wheatley
You’ve heard the stories: Google, Apple, H-P and other silicon icons and business category disruptors all started in a garage. So will the NEXT great leap — perhaps the ability to teleport yourself anywhere instantly, solve America’s obesity crisis or build engines that run on oxygen — be birthed and incubated in a garage? That’s apparently where innovation and the next generation’s leading transformational brainstorm and company will be invented, right?
So should we plan ahead and make sure we’ve got ourselves working on the big idea inside that drafty cold space next to the house? Is it the chilly temp that stimulates groundbreaking ideas? The poor lighting helps us concentrate? Faint odors of gasoline mixed with half-empty paint cans to stimulate creativity?
Real innovation – the mental leap kind – is always the outcome of inspiration and vision, coupled with a significant dose of a clear mission and focused attention. The outcomes will evolve as concepts that create either new categories or completely overturn existing ones – as Amazon Fresh will do to the supermarket business.
So what’s the definition of a big idea? Reinvention is one class, such as the transformation Starbucks dealt to a cup of coffee or Dyson whirled around vacuum cleaner design. Or there’s the sort of “bold and unexpected” idea that informs the future of an existing business – a concept that you can immediately see will have an impact on the organization’s behaviors and processes.
Invention is always the province of people thinking. Usually open brains that are already willing to consider big thoughts and to draw upon “loaded inspiration” to inform their views. By loaded we mean, intense study of everything that matters around the business you’re in or aspire to change.
Walking in their shoes…
There is no more important place to start on this journey than from a point of empathy for the consumer you wish to serve. Big ideas work backwards from insight, understanding and empathy for the needs and wants of those you wish to help. Yes, that was help.
How does your idea improve and/ or change the lives of those who represent the consumer cohort your envisioning?
You must first walk in their shoes. It is from this point of understanding — as well as the devotion to making tangible real world improvements in people’s lives — that groundbreaking innovations will flourish.
So at Emergent this is how we operate. From consumer insight and observation we develop the fundamental concepts and ideas that drive client growth.
- The cheese client that grasped the understanding of cheese adventure tied to flavor inspiration and experiences in the kitchen – that led to a new way of doing business, new products, new marketing within a new definition of who the consumer was. The outcome was and remains transformational.
- The restaging of a national QSR restaurant chain that followed the sea change in consumer lifestyles to a place that informs everything from product formulation to store experience and communications strategy.
- The complete overhaul of a small supermarket company to rethink what it’s on the planet to accomplish with food, and from this insight related to a redefinition of who the shopper was based on their interests in higher quality food experiences. Embracing a new mission that informs a new store, a new retail brand and a new approach to marketing.
All of these examples begin with a willingness to engage on a new path. Tweaks and incremental-ism are exactly that, minor course corrections that lead to more of the same. Big ideas involve risk, but no great thing was ever achieved without taking them.
Embracing a garage mentality and all that goes with it is the first step towards casting a new and better future.