Innovating in the right way has never been more important. As society copes with the tumult of Covid-19, whether in the public or private sectors, the need to adapt is growing. Disciplined innovation approaches, designed to diminish time and resource waste when solving ambiguous challenges, have come to the fore as technology is sought to solve old and new problems.
As a member of Capgemini Invent’s Future of Technology practice, I was seconded to Capgemini’s London Applied Innovation Exchange (AIE). The AIE is an interdisciplinary team of innovation consultants, designers and developers, created seek to solve our clients’ most difficult issues using emerging technologies. Below are my lessons from their approach to disciplined innovation.
1. Start with a problem, not a technology
All too often, inspired by a flashy emerging technology, entrepreneurs and corporates alike create propositions which struggle to solve customer needs. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the mass of blockchain start-ups, like Civil – a company which aspires to end the decline of the newspaper using a cryptocurrency. While Civil’s intentions were clear, why a cryptocurrency was needed to save the newspaper industry was unclear, and its initial coin offering stalled. Adopting an approach that initially focuses on identifying the right problems, using tools like the double diamond, can shape solutions to solve real customer with the right underlying tech , ultimately de-risking innovation investment. Broad swathes of human behaviour have irreversibly changed during this pandemic. Using innovation to properly answer the new needs of society, can be the source of growth we’ll need to kickstart our locked-down economies.
2. Cultivate teams of T-shaped innovators
Understanding society’s new needs is only useful when you have the right people to meet the challenge. The AIE has sought to develop teams of T-shaped people. These are individuals with a deep skill, like commercial management, who can also understand and occasionally execute a range of tasks, like user research. As innovation execution increasingly focuses on small interdisciplinary teams, whether working to frameworks like Scrum or not, T-shaped team members are best placed to support one another and deliver. For example, a T-shaped developer, with user research skills, can brainstorm with a UX designer and drive better UX outcomes for the whole team. The power of intra-team collaboration can drive greater capability to meet society’s needs. As we head towards whatever future awaits us, it won’t be individual heroes creating the changes we need, it will be collectives.
3. Don’t let discipline stifle creativity
Many disciplined innovation approaches involve a vast array of ideas being generated and then whittling them down to define the right solution. In many ways, this can seem a brutal process of removing ‘bad ideas.’ As a result, facilitating an innovation process with a team or as a collaborator, requires innovation practitioners to create an environment where it’s OK voice ideas without fear of being ‘wrong.’ This is arguably becoming harder, at least in the US, UK and Canada, where perfectionism is on the rise in the younger workforce and voicing an idea can lead to discomfort. Leaders should ameliorate this unease through the innovation process, in both research and development. For example, in an ideation session, this can be as easy employing icebreakers to de-emphasise workplace hierarchies and encouraging open communication. Failure to address this can mean muting your collaborators, impairing the variety of thought required for good innovation.
During the current pandemic, much has been written about how society will be indelibly changed. The rise of 3D printers and open source approaches to drive PPE equipment fabrication has been remarkable – we could yet see a decentralised manufacturing revolution after this crisis. Despite all this, many of society’s problems remain are unchanged. While pollution in major cities has fallen in lockdown, if anything, the challenge to our environment is even greater as the world stands on the brink of recession. Now more than ever disciplined innovation is required to solve society’s intractable problems.
If you’d like to know more about conducting innovation the right way, please contact Capgemini Invent
Associate Consultant, Capgemini Invent
Jonathan is a consultant in the Future of Technology practice with experience in strategy, innovation and product development.