Zoe Aitken (pictured below) is the head of consulting at leading innovation consultancy Inventium and has over 15 years’ experience helping organisations develop customer-centric growth strategies and innovation.
Have you ever experienced a 1am spark of creative genius? A million-dollar idea that comes to you in the middle of the night that keeps you awake with excitement. You can’t stop thinking about the idea. However, it’s what you do next that is critical to your success….
Getting too attached to your ideas is a sure-fire way to launching something that doesn’t deliver value. It also puts you at risk of blowing out timelines and over-investment. This is because you’re prone to what psychologists call the sunk cost bias. This is where you pursue something with blind optimism, despite it clearly not working, because of how much you’ve already invested.
The antidote to the sunk cost bias is to fall in love with the customer problem you’re solving, instead of the idea. Because contrary to popular belief, innovation doesn’t start with an idea, it starts with a problem.
If you are lucky enough to be hit by an insomnia-causing idea, then follow these three steps before you hit the ‘launch’ button.
- Ladder your idea back to a customer problem.
Take the time to understand the problem that your idea is addressing, and whether it’s a problem worth solving. For instance, is it a problem that causes lots of customers (and potential customers) significant frustration? Are there adequate solutions that already solve this customer problem? Are there any barriers limiting certain customers from accessing the current solutions (such as price or availability) which your idea overcomes?
The first step to innovation success is to make sure that you are focusing on a customer problem worth solving.
- Explore lots of potential solutions
Regardless of how passionate you are about your idea, it’s important that you expand your thinking to explore lots of potential solutions. Because we know that with quantity, comes quality of ideas. So, before you’ve invested any resources in your idea, generate a range of other potential solutions to your customer problem. Go as wide as possible and get input from lots of different people. Diversity of thinking is critical at this stage of the innovation process.
Only once you’ve explored lots of possible solutions, can you feel confident that you are pursuing the idea which offers the best chance of success.
- Experiment with your idea
Once you’ve scrutinised your customer problem and gone as wide as possible with your solutions, it’s time to experiment. As one of the world’s leading thinkers on innovation
Scott D. Anthony says, “the only thing you can be sure of is that your first idea is wrong in some meaningful way”. Ouch! Running experiments enables you to quickly and cheaply understand which parts of your idea are working and which aren’t. This can feel agonisingly hard when all you want to do is launch your idea as soon as possible. Running quick experiments on the riskiest aspects of your idea allows you to identify which aspects of your idea are working and which aren’t. This means you can course-correct sooner rather than later and avoid over-investment.
It’s very tempting to want to run with your initial idea and hit the launch button straight away. However, by tempering your love and walking through the above steps, you will set yourself up for the best chance of success. While they might feel like a buzz kill, at the end of the day they’ll help you sleep better.