Like with anything else, asking questions is what inspires innovation.
Ask a lot of questions
You can never ask too many questions. You might think you are annoying to others, but it’s the only way you learn. People will tell you when you have asked too many questions. If you want innovation in your business start asking questions and plenty of them.
The successful implementation of new ideas is fundamental to a business being able to improve its processes, bring new and improved products and services to market, increase its efficiency, improve customer service and, most importantly, improve its profitability.
Asking questions in order to improve your innovation and increase the odds of success, is a critical part of moving your business from where you are now to where you want it to go.
So what questions and how many should you ask in order to improve your innovation and increase the odds of success? Why not start by asking “what business are we really in?” or “what are our customers really wanting”?
In order to improve your creativity and innovation ability to create new profitable growth opportunities, deal with disruptive economic and technology threats, commercialise your own ideas, or come up with a more compelling offering, consider using questions to help you work through the best approach to innovation and continuous improvement.
When you start your business or start a new year you have clear a clear purpose, vision and objectives of what we will accomplish. Suddenly you find yourself down the track and things aren’t quite where you thought they would be.
As time slips away and we get busy working in the business, we seem to lose sight of our original dream or at least our connection to turning it into a reality. Of course, we stop innovation because we don’t have any spare time. This is when you have to ask yourself some critical questions if you want to keep moving forward.
Identifying new opportunities for innovation
The innovation you choose today will determine your business tomorrow, so it is critical to be asking the right questions. Every innovation you carry out will impact your future, whether it be directly or by helping to underpin other innovation that will, making questions you ask important.
What problem is the customer struggling to solve? Steve Jobs famously said, “it is not the customer’s job to know what he wants. It is the innovator’s job”. One of the clearest signs of an opportunity for innovation is someone demonstrating that a problem is important to them by spending time or money trying to solve it and expressing frustration because existing solutions are falling short.
Make thing simpler, easier and more affordable. A time-tested path to disruptive growth is to compete not against fierce competitors but to focus your innovation, making it simpler, easier, and more affordable for people to do what they have been trying to do.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all”. Dale Carnegie
Identifying the threat of economic or technology disruption
Don’t provide features that users don’t care about and don’t want to pay for? One of the issues with disruptive innovation is that businesses innovate faster than people’s needs change. People will always take better products, but when they can’t use or don’t want to pay for the premium features, it creates opportunities for simpler, cheaper solutions.
If you were going to disrupt, what questions would you ask? What technology would you use? Despite the fact that the concept has been around for many years, disruption still seems to blindside far too many businesses, non-profits and communities. The interesting thing is that the disruptors are almost always in plain sight but tend to be discounted by the market leaders, which is where the opportunities for innovation are.
Asking the wrong questions leads to complacency. In 2008, the CEO of Blockbuster said when asked about Netflix, “I’ve been frankly confused by this fascination that everybody has with Netflix. Netflix doesn’t really have or do anything that we can’t or don’t already do ourselves”. Boy, what a big mistake.
Question commercialisation of your innovations
What questions are you asking about commercialising your innovation that, if wrong, would cause even more problems with your customers or the organisation? Promising innovations often fail to make it to market because the innovators cannot get to market quickly enough or make adjustments fast enough.
Be fast to market by clearly identify the biggest uncertainties behind the innovation and keep asking questions to test your assumptions. Ask questions about the unexpected outcomes as much as the expected ones.
Focus your questions on affordability and solving your customer’s problems, frustrations wants and needs? Your innovations should not be complicated and expensive. Showing customers a rough mock-up of your proposed innovation can give you an early indication of their interest. This could make the difference between successfully getting to market or running out of money before you ever do.
Innovation can bring about a more compelling offering
Who has already solved the problem you are trying to address? You might think this question helps you drop an idea entirely, but it actually suggests the opposite. One mistake many innovators make is they think that they get extra credit just for doing something original or uniquely difficult.
Innovation is something different, but something different must create value for the customers and the business. So ask the right questions that will find the quickest path you can to value creation.
Odds are someone in the world has already solved the problem you’re seeking to address in some other context, so don’t be afraid to ask questions of people in other industries. Inspiration might come from a different industry, country, or business, but when you find it, applying that approach to your problem can short-circuit innovation development times dramatically.
The pace of change makes it increasingly difficult to innovate at the same speed as the market in which you are involved. I believe businesses, non-profit organisations and their communities who work together are more likely to be asking the right questions and capitalising on each other’s experiences. Often they will all have the same problems but they will have different approaches.
While innovation should be pursued actively, taking the time to consider the questions and ideas posed here can be a great way to focus activities and tilt the odds of success in your favour.
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Questions are the one thing that can take you from slack to reality. Often we become bogged down and have difficulty replacing procrastination with innovation.
I see many people whose businesses are stagnating and even slipping backwards and all they seem to have is a feeling of hopelessness, nothing seems to work anymore.
Well, change the conversations you are having and start asking more questions about how your organisation can participate in more consistent innovation.