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Welcome to the innovation methodology jungle.

Aktualisiert: 26. Juni 2021

How to think and work innovation holistically instead of sticking to ideologies.

Welcome to the innovation methodology jungle.

How to think and work innovation holistically instead of sticking to ideologies.

Design Thinking, Design Sprints, Lean Startup, Scrum, Kanban ... You name it. There are a lot of buzzwords out there, especially when it comes to innovation methodologies. They all sound great, you'll find amazing coaches and practitioners for every single one of them and a lot of people think at least one of them must be the key to success.

Well, I have some bad news for you: It's not that easy. You don't simply hire a Design Thinking Coach and get the best customer centric, perfectly validated ideas within three days resulting in the groundbreaking innovation you were searching for so eagerly. You can't get a Scrum Master and assume that all of a sudden, your team will operate in the best way possible and all impediments are gone. BUT, if this would be the end of this blog post, it would be a very sad one, right?

So here is the good news: It’s about much more. It’s about connecting the dots and staying consistent with your innovation journey. This incorporates much more than the occasional Design Sprint. Coaches and consultants are absolute experts in their fields, and they will give you great value if you can visualise the big picture.

But how are we creating a holistic innovation journey that truly elicits the best results possible?

Learn: Get an overview of the different methodologies, stages, and scenarios they're best used in.

Firstly, we need to gain, at the very least, a surface understanding of these innovation methodologies. It's important to grasp the theoretical context: Which methodology is used when, with what goal, measured with which KPIs, and which tools. Board of Innovation has a great overview on that! (I can highly recommend their free resources!)

Locate yourself: Get clear about the status-quo of your project.

Are we at the very beginning, learning about a specific target group or framing a certain problem in order to create ideas? Or do we already have a prototype and need to build a real product now? This is a completely different context. It's important to clarify and be honest about where you are standing in order to find the right point to step in.

Observe: be user-centered, not only with customers, but with your team as well.

Whether you're engaging with users deeply, conducting interviews, looking at your data - do the same with your team and your stakeholders! What do they need to perform best as an innovative team? Do your research within your own context! What does the stage and the situation you and your team are in require?

Structure: Get an overview of your toolbox and take what you need.

Get the basics right and build a strong foundation. What are the necessary elements, at what time, and in which phase? What are your non-negotiables when building your "fundament"?

Briefly said: What are the simplest terms on which we can agree and collaborate? For most of my teams our non-negotiables were some agile rituals to structure our way of working together, continuously testing, and gaining customer insights in every stage of an innovation project.

Subsequently, take a look behind all of those methods and what they can do for you and your team. Rebuild them, combine them, take what benefits you. What things and elements from those methodologies have what effect?

Structure them, label them, put them into a miro board or in a digital notebook, then you have them on hand when a certain situation pops up. You're not working as a Scrum Team, but you need a retro? Go for it! Your team has struggles with making decisions - look into how decisions are being made in Design Thinking and Sprints. It is not a "this or that", it maybe is an "and"!

Adapt: Allow yourself to break the rules.

For most people, it's easy to stick to a certain pattern, to obey the rules and just follow the lead, right? Nothing can go wrong. We're safe because we have a plan. We have rules, like the agile manifesto or a design thinking handbook or even facilitation guides.

But maybe, we're missing a lot of potential here, right? Because in my opinion, it's about experimenting! Go try out and experiment in a structured way, document what worked out and what didn't, and maybe even come up with a hypothesis or conclusions why, and what needs to be adapted. Make your innovation journey your biggest experiment. Because there is not, and there never will be, a bulletproof blueprint.

Involve: Don't be ashamed to seek experts advice.

Navigating through all those methodologies and the ups and downs of an innovation journey for sure isn't easy! But the good news is: For most stages, methodologies and tools, there is an absolute expert that can support on specific topics. It can be so valuable to bring in experts advice, thats what they're here for!

If we manage to set up the correct framework, an expert brings so much value and growth, if brought in on the right time. Those times can be, for example, right before major check-ins with stakeholders, before you move into a new stage, when you think about making huge decisions (e.g. pivoting) or if you recognize something not going the way it should. (Final point right before you hit rock bottom!)

Those people manage to bring a different point of view - something that brings us one step closer to a wholesome journey. A simple "What do you think, could it work this way?" can do so much!

Connect: the dots & take your time.

There is a tendency to get caught up in our everyday work routine. It happens to all of us. We live in our small project world and just tackle our everyday challenges, firefighting and keeping the jam going. But especially then, when we regularly reflect, we can take a breath and a step back to look at the big picture: Are we still in the same phase or should we move on and bring in some new tools and methods? Are we even an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or should we move on into an MMP (Minimum Marketable Product) phase? Then we need to take the time and effort to reframe our focus, consider to work differently and even measure different metrics. Doing this can make such a big shift and change the whole context and outlook of your project, bringing in new energy, because you're just at a new beginning!

In the end, it is incredibly important for me to say that there is no innovation blueprint. Even if you have the best innovation consultants, with the fanciest tools, frameworks and sheets, the context of a project is will always vary greatly, because it‘s shaped by such a diverse bunch of people, a company culture, and its specific challenges.

Therefore I think it is crucial to be adaptive and brave, as well as being structured and reflective when it comes to building your own way of innovating.

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