Is innovation at its core simple or complex? The answer is that the truth isn’t so black and white – it’s more of a grey area. It’s actually both, simple and complex. As with all things, it all depends on what perspective you choose to look at it from.
As an idea, as a concept, as an ideal, as an aspiration…it’s unbelievably simple. Just think of new things. Think outside the box. Be creative. And that’s it.
But when it actually comes to implementing it and you get down into the weeds? That’s when it starts to get convoluted. A million questions come rushing to the surface – how do we implement innovation in our company? How do we make sure we’re not wasting time on bad ideas and only focusing on the good ones? Is there such a thing as innovating too much? How do we know when we’ve come up with enough ideas for now? How do we know if we need even more ideas? Should we keep continuously generating ideas all the time then? When will we have time to do actual work?
When this happens, the most effective thing that can be done is to take a step back from the nitty-gritty details, and distill things to the most fundamental elements. We’ve done exactly that for you with innovation. We’ve broken it down into the very ‘e’ssentials – or, as we like to call them, the four E’s of innovation:
This will give you the seed of your idea. This is the start of something groundbreaking.
American inventor and scientist, Michael Fry, is quoted as saying: “The creative mind doesn't have to have the whole pattern -- it can have just a little piece and be able to envision the whole picture in completion.”
This is the true cornerstone of innovation. Envisioning is what will lead you to everything else. And you can achieve incredible things.
Just sit down with a pen and paper and try to go into free-flow mode and write down any and all ideas, visions, goals, or aspirations you can come up with.
You might think this sounds a little unnecessary or esoteric. But don’t underestimate the power of a strong vision. Just take it from Michael Eisner, former Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company. Here is a quote from him talking about how envisioning helped him to get Disneyland into the notoriously tough and fickle scenario of amusement parks in Hong Kong: “I remember the first time we stood in this spot. We were on the deck of a boat in the middle of what was then Penny's Bay, envisioning what could be, what would be, what will be. Six years later, through our dream partnership with Hong Kong government, the creative dream is now a reality. Hong Kong Disneyland stands before us as a living symbol of the creativity and imagination that are the heart and soul of Disney.”
Now you have the seed of your idea. But that seed still needs to grow into a plant.
Take the idea you’ve written down, and write it again on a new page. Now, go ahead and write down ways that you can expand on that idea. For example, if your idea is to pivot your vehicles business into creating a solar-powered electric scooter, try to write down more facets of the idea, such as what the design should be like, how many hours of battery it should have, what the top speed should be, how many SKUs you should create within it, and so on.
This will help you take the idea from something that is abstract, to something that is actually multifaceted and has different sections and possibilities. Everything from now on will stem from these possibilities, so make sure they are as diverse and full of potential as possible.
Now that your idea has grown into a plant, the next step is to mature it into a tree.
Evolve the kernels of your idea further. Continuing with the example of an electric scooter, this is the point where you should cross the threshold of the idea just being a vague concept and coming into reality. Try to look up what kinds of electric scooters other companies are already creating. Make a rough sketch of what yours would look like. Make sure to focus hard on even the minor details, such as where the solar panels should be located, how many of them should there be, and so on. Take this sketch and turn it into a proper 3D design using an application like AutoCAD and see what exactly it would look like in real life.
This will help to shape and evolve the idea to the next level. This is the penultimate step, and its importance cannot be overstated because this can make or break the entire idea. You need to evolve it in a powerful way to ensure that the idea remains robust but versatile.
Congratulations, now you have a large, beautiful tree on your hands! It’s all done, right? No, in fact this is the very beginning. Because now, you need to turn it into a whole forest!
Finally, think about extending and scaling your idea. Continuing with our example, look at where you can source the solar panels from. Look at how expensive it will be to manufacture the scooter. Map out what the landed cost will generally be and how much you should sell it for, depending on your target market and ideal margins.
You have now gone from having no ideas, to having a strong, effective idea, expanding it, evolving it, and extending it. Now, all that remains is one more thing. You can even call this the secret fifth ‘e’. What you have to do next is enact the idea with a detailed plan and strategy. And with that, you will have successfully traveled on the road of innovation. Happy Journeys!