7 Insight Channels to Ignite Innovation

In their article “Managing Yourself Where to Look for Insight” Mohanbir Sawhney and Sanjay Khosla presents an interesting hypothesis that innovation can be approached in a systematic way. Personally, I found the article intriguing, especially the insight channels shared by the authors. I have attempted to share them to the best of my capabilities.

The first channel pertains to ‘Anomalies’. In the age of ‘big data’ where the trend is to focus on analysing the information that is at disposal to arrive at your next big idea, the authors recommend reviewing those traits that buck the obvious i.e. things that could be classified as business as usual. The article showcases the example of Lamoda (online Russian store of clothes, shoes, accessories and beauty merchandise), which has overcome challenges like inconsistent postal system, limited number of consumers with credit cards by delivering purchases made by consumers to their homes, introducing cash-on-delivery and offering fashion advice. The example of Lamoda mirrors a key e-commerce trend in India where cash-on-delivery has become the preferred medium for payment against online transactions.

The second channel is ‘Confluence’ which talks about the mingling of various trends. The article provides the example of Vine (enabling users to share short videos on the fly) which leverages on the confluence of the growth and popularity of smart phones, social networking and increasingly shorter attention spans among users.

‘Frustration’ is the third insight channel. The article showcases the example of Mark Vadon who went on to create Blue Nile, the largest online retailer of diamonds after experiencing problems while trying to shop for an engagement ring. Through this example, the authors highlight how frustrations faced by consumers could be transformed into an untapped opportunity. The key constituent to this channel is to put yourself in the shoes of a consumer and feel the frustrations and analyse the causes.

‘Orthodoxies’ is the next channel. There is empirical evidence that tradition often acts as a deterrent for trying something new. Orthodoxies in some form or manner exists in most organisations and often apprehensions come between finding an alternative and moving away from the tried and tested and sticking to the same old tried and true solutions. The authors suggest that we ask ourselves questions like why do things have to be done this way only.

The fifth channel is ‘Extremities’. The authors suggest that we look beyond our mainstream stakeholders for soliciting ideas and inputs. These may include visionary consumers who can help an organisation anticipate trends which are yet to be formalised, co-workers who do not like no for an answer and are passionate about what they do or shareholders who are more enlightened than the rest. These group is often characterised by their intensity; be it complaints or passion for what they believe but there is a scope to learn from them and apply the learning to change the way things get done.

‘Voyages’ comes next. This could be interpreted as efforts undertaken by innovators to understand what others are thinking or what their needs are. The best way of doing this is via interactions and not trying to anticipate what is going on in the minds of customers (both internal and external) from their desks. A case in point is the example of a manager at Intuit who was mandated to develop a new version of the QuickBooks product for the not for profit sector. The manager attempted to contextualise by managing the accounts of a client organisation for a few months. She observed that the financial management processes differ greatly between profit and not for profit sectors. For her client, the emphasis was on raising funds rather than sales, customers etc. This hands-on-experience helped her visualise new features for the product and the new QuickBooks Premier Nonprofit was launched with rave reviews.

The final insight channel is ‘Analogies’. Through this channel, the authors have attempted to explore if an innovation that got generated somewhere else could be imported. Reading about this channel, I remembered what Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi had stated in their book ‘The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create Dynamics of Innovation’. It goes like this: “Companies in Japan believe that new and proprietary knowledge cannot be created without an intensive inside-outside interaction. To create knowledge, the learning that takes place from others and the skills shared with others need to be internalized – that is, reformed, enriched, and translated to fit the company’s self-image and identity”.

To read the full article, please click here.

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