Innovation

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Will your company be transformed right out of business, or will you bust out of the constraints of today and allow your team to envision the crazy ideas that will become the “of course” products of the future?

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You can check all the usual boxes—great execution, solid management, well-integrated teams, stellar new product development processes. Yet if you can’t see what’s coming in three, five, or ten years, you not only risk losing market share but also suffering the complete disintegration of your company, your industry, and your business model.

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Conducting a survey before understanding the requirements—and without an image of what it is like to be the voter—gets the flawed results we saw in this year’s polls. Diving deeply into the populace enables far more accurate predictions.

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In the bad old days, consumers selected from small, medium, and large. They could choose basic black, white, and maybe red; two doors, four doors, or flat beds. Now comes a world of product options and a new twist in the form of new communication technologies that give customers a say in defining those options.

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Rankings and ratings (of companies, schools, products, or anything else) can be interesting to consumers and potentially distressing to those who don't make the list or are near the bottom. We look at the recent Forbes list of The World’s Most Innovative Companies and why these rankings don’t give much concrete direction to companies interested in improving innovation.

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As with any business process, the first step in exploiting innovation to serve your company's goals is to measure it -- an inherently difficult undertaking. Innovation is a creative process, which, by its very nature, involves doing things that have never been done before. Yet, if you don't measure it, you can't manage it, and if you can't manage it, you can't control it, and if you can't control it, it can sneak up and sabotage your business before you even know there's a problem.

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The biggest payoff in product design lies not in solving a known problem in a new way, but in discovering a completely new problem. Design thinking can be a great tool in that regard, but sometimes you need to extend your view a bit.

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