bulb Adaptive innovation is methodical and circular. 


Innovation and strategic advantage hinge on the ability to anticipate trends and identify the next big thing. By casting a wide net and clustering ideas, you can filter through chaos to identify patterns of opportunity. Innovative Problem solving can be broken down into four steps:

  1. Reset:Erase your expectations and start with a blank slate.
  2. Hunt:Study customer needs, market dynamics and random sources of inspiration.
  3. Cluster:Identify meaningful patterns, not macro trends.
  4. Re-Cluster:Force yourself to look beyond your initial bias.

Innovation is circular. Like a dog chasing its own tail, you always need to be adapting, redefining the customer need you are trying to solve. Unlike a dog, you will become more intelligent with each spin.

Then the steps are easier to follow.

Step 1. Define a clear customer need. A well- defined problem will dictate the outcome of your entire project, so you want to ensure that your insight is specific. When screening for opportunity, look deeper than the broadest idea. Look for underserved niches of opportunity. What’s the benefit to the user?

Step 2: Ideate like it matters. “Ideate” is a better word for brainstorming. When someone is able to build upon the idea of someone else, it proves that your exercise is actually inspiring new ways of thinking. At the Stanford Institute of Design, the goal for an hour of brainstorming was around 100 ideas. Make ideation the best part of your job and passion will translate into breakthrough ideas. At many of my events I create an Idea Exchange. During our brief time together we normally generate over 10 ideas per person. The results are amazing. Certainly some are replicated, that’s unavoidable. However normally 85-90% are fresh ideas.

Step 3: Synthesize in a smaller team. Collect (100 ideas): Start with your results from Step 2. Filter (20 ideas): Find the best nuggets! In a smaller team, create clusters or simply pick the best ideas. Refine (10 ideas): Prepare “headlines” for your best 10 ideas as if you were selling them to a customer. Rank Order (10 ideas, ranked): Quantitatively rank your 10 refined ideas. Ideally, perform an online survey with a sample of your actual customers. Focus (3 ideas): Select your three best ideas to move on to Step 4.

Step 4: Create rapid prototypes“Rapid prototyping” involves creating pretend versions of your product or service. It’s different than planning in that you are building something to simulate the experience. This could mean creating a skit to preview a new experience, or spending a couple hours building a model of a sample store. The act of creating a physical prototype allows you to visualize the concept and obtain useful feedback. When you move at a speed that makes you uncomfortable, you eliminate wasteful steps.

Step 5: Test and optimize. Find ways to quantify the uncertainty and each successive design will inch closer to breakthrough innovation. When companies are good at something they make slight tweaks to improve — they climb to the peak of the hill they are already on. When finding a new hill, you cannot get caught up in testing small details. You need to explore broadly. By exploring and measuring ambiguity, chaos becomes order.

Repeat. What is the problem that you are really trying to solve? Don’t be complacent; push yourself to redefine what you are trying to do.

Want to create an Idea Exchange and encourage your workforce or associates to think differently? Contact Jim at jfeldman@shifthappens.com or call 312 527-9111