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Innovation needs intent

innovation needs intentUltimately, just like your business strategy, your innovation strategy needs to be focused. It can’t be all things to all people. It must be able to stand on its own.

Last Friday I conducted a second innovation workshop with graduate students from UABC, the largest university in Tijuana. Before we were done, I made sure they took two things to heart:

  1. Figure out their own definition of innovation;
  2. Be intentional with your innovation intent.

The last point is important, and hopefully they caught my drift because a lot of what the media considers innovation fits into the silly category…

Innovation is more about perspective and attitude than it is about process

Most everyone wants to fit innovation into an A to B process that can be systematically followed to the T with predictable results. Sure, there is a process of discovering opportunities, putting together a blueprint, rapid prototyping to test the ideas and selecting which ideas work before launching. But, for your effort to have some serious punch it has to be guided by a thought provoking question that signals your innovation intent.

Take one of my recent blog posts where I explained how I reframed a challenge for an NGO. We went from “how might we encourage people to adopt dogs?”, to “what if dogs adopted people?”.

Which one sounds more interesting and exciting? Which one shifts your perspective and makes you pay attention? Which one defines a different future? Exactly!

The point of asking provocative questions isn’t to be silly, but to consider unexplored perspectives. Remember, we get to create the future we want. It’s a choice!

Innovation needs to be purposeful

New and meaningful value is the purpose of innovation. I’ve seen innovation efforts start off with a checklist of items, which also includes writing down a purpose statement. Most of the time these are complete fluff. The fact is that questions are more persuasive than statements. Questions unlike statements elicit an active response, they get people’s wheels turning!

So, when a lot of mission and vision statements are designed to put people to sleep, a thought provoking question will guide creative ingenuity. The goal of this intent is to frame the way you want to change the world.

To give your innovation intent some more punch, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are we changing?
  • What will people stop doing?
  • How will they be better off?
  • What will people eventually become?

As I’ve stated before, questioning is often the starting point of innovation. Therefore, if you want better answers, and actions, ask better questions. It doesn’t get any more bold than asking thought provoking questions!

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