Unlock the Magic in Your Story Now

Get the Free 20 questions to Ask Before Launching Your Idea workbook when you sign up for updates.

Get the Free 20 questions to Ask Before Launching Your Idea workbook when you sign up for updates.

Articles filed in: Innovation

What Did You Do?


A walk down my local café strip shows just how resourceful we can be when we’re in a tough spot. Because of world events and government guidelines around group gatherings, restaurants and cafes can no longer welcome diners into their premises. But they are quickly adapting.

Every café has come up with a solution. Many have changed to a takeaway menu, offering local delivery. Smith & Daughters partnered with their organic vegetable wholesaler to sell fresh produce. Ish, the local Indian restaurant has started a meal kit service.

And Kere Kere launched Essential Soup, to provide jobs to unemployed hospitality workers and nourishment to those in self-isolation.

Now is a time of uncertainty for many of us. A time when our plans and our usual routines have been upended and some of us have extra hours on our hands.

When this moment passes, we will look back at how we adapted. We’ll remember how we became more creative, resourceful and resilient. We’ll remind ourselves, and each other about what we did, how we pushed through and how we helped.

This time next year, how will you answer the question: What did you do?

Why This? Why You? Why Now?


Why This? Why You? Why Now?

Three simple questions we are often reluctant to answer.

When you sit with the discomfort of reflecting on them before you embark on a project, you’ll be clearer about what the world needs from you and why. You’ll also have the beginnings of the story your audience wants to hear.

Why do the people you want to serve need your product or service?

Why are you the person or the company to bring this project to life for this audience?

Why is now the ideal time to begin?

And the bonus question.

What’s the story only you can tell the people you want to matter to?

Image by Lilibeth Bustos Linares

People Want Places, Not Platforms


Do you see all those people who whipping their smartphones out as soon as they get on the train or stand in a queue? They’re not just avoiding boredom, they’re searching—but not only for information, or laughs, or updates. They are searching for a feeling of connection.

We want places to go and places to be. Places to kill time and places that make us feel a little less lonely in the moment. Places to learn. Places to share. Places that make us feel safe, or smart, or welcomed, or funny, or hopeful for the future. But most of all, we want places to belong and places where we feel like we matter.

Those places used to be our family homes, our dinner tables at 6 pm, or football games with friends on Saturday afternoons. Increasingly they are digital spaces.

Whatever you’re building, think beyond features, functionality and design and think first about how the person you serve wants to feel when she arrives at the place you’ve built.

Image by Hugh Han

Adding Value By Subtraction


When we’re innovating a product or iterating a service, we tend to add value by introducing features and benefits. But more isn’t always better.

Sometimes improvements and progress are made by removing things that people wouldn’t miss.

What could you subtract or stop doing to improve your product or service?

Image by Garry Knight

Better By Degrees

The track and field coach Bill Bowerman spent twenty-four years training athletes at the University of Oregon to optimise their performance. Bowerman was also the co-founder of Nike, and most famously the inventor of the waffle sole running shoe (which he prototyped by pouring rubber into the family’s waffle iron). Bowerman’s innovation made the shoe lighter and increased its grip. A tiny tweak that changed everything for the athletes who wore them and the company that made them.

Throughout history, what look like giant leaps were a result of tiny adjustments. Incremental shifts. Slight gaps that were filled. Something once thought trivial understood to be essential. The untapped and unseen, newly revealed.

The people who change the world pay attention to the seemingly insignificant. They’re always on the lookout for a way to make things better by degrees. What we see when we look at an athlete is someone running fast. What Bowerman saw was someone who could run faster.

Image by Happy Rower

Progress And Potential

Nobody knows who invented the button five thousand years ago. At first, buttons were simply used to adorn clothing. It wasn’t until the invention of the buttonhole three thousand years later that buttons became functional. It took us two thousand years to reimagine what the button could do. And in that moment fashion and even the fabric of our society was changed forever.

The invention of the buttonhole meant we had a more reliable way of securing our clothes. Instead of having to drape ourselves in swathes of cloth, we could wear more fitted garments that used less fabric. Clothing could be designed not only to cover bodies but also to subtly reveal them. People were free to move more easily because their clothing stayed put. That newfound freedom likely had a knock-on effect on both creativity and productivity.

It took someone asking a better question about what a button was for, to see what a button could be for.

All progress is about taking a small step into the unknown, towards the uncharted territory of the never been done before.

Image by Sam Rodgers. HT to Isaac Mizrahi

12 Lessons From The Biggest Hit Of The Year

Ed Sheeran’s hit song, ‘Shape of You’ was the most streamed track of 2017. The official video is expected to reach three billion views within a year of being uploaded. There’s a lot we can learn from this video where Ed and his co-writers talk about the process of writing a hit song.

12 Lessons From The Biggest Hit of 2017

1. Hits are accidents waiting to happen. You have to put yourself the situations that give you the best chance of doing great work.

2. Creativity is unpredictable. In Ed’s words.’None of us thought that much into it.’

3. Flexibility is your friend. Understanding what’s not working is key to finding what does work.

4. You can’t always think your way to success. Sometimes you have to feel your way.

5. Going against the grain often creates magic.

6. Shifting your focus can help you to view challenges with fresh eyes.

7. Average first drafts are necessary iterations of great finished products.

8. Your perceived flaws and enforced constraints can become your biggest strengths.

9. A strong team trumps a lone superstar.

10.Nobody knows for sure. Everything would be a hit if we could predict what’s going to fly.

11.It pays to allow your work to be seen through someone else’s lens.

12.Don’t set out to win. Set out to love what you do.

Here’s to continuing to learn from our failures and successes.

Image by Kmeron

21 Questions For Creators And Innovators

Ideas are easy and free, execution can be painful and costly. Not just because it requires time, effort and resources—but because we often don’t do enough groundwork to get clear about the impact we hope to create. While it’s important to plan for success and mitigate against failure, what’s equally worthwhile exploring is why the idea matters to you and the people you hope it will serve. Why should you give it priority?
These twenty-one questions will help you get clear about your intention.

21 Questions For Creators And Innovators

1. What sparked this idea?
2. What’s your motivation for starting this project?
3. Who is the ideal user, client or customer for the end product?
4. Why will they buy or buy into it?
5. Why do you care about solving this problem for these people?
6. Why are you the person or team to bring it to life?
7. Why this project and not something else?
8. What’s the end goal?
9. What’s the first step?
10.What resources do you need?
11.What’s your minimal viable product?
12.Who do you need to involve or get behind the project?
13.How much time do you need?
14.How will you test your idea?
15.Who can you trust to give you objective feedback?
16.What are the likely challenges you could face?
17.How can you mitigate against or learn from them?
18.What circumstances would make you quit?
19.What does success look like?
20.If this idea succeeds what’s your next step?
21.If not this, then what?

You’re more likely to succeed by confronting the hard questions before you begin.

Image by Business Region Skane

The Value Of Subtraction

The call centre operator’s power is limited. He can’t bypass the company’s systems and processes. He is employed to apply a band-aid to the wound—buying the company some time until someone in another department (who he has no direct access to) can solve the problem. He should be empowered to delight and when he’s not the call centre becomes a point of friction. This is exactly the opposite of what the leaders in the company intended to happen when they invested in customer phone support.

Value is traditionally measured by what is added—giving the customer more for less. When we only view our products and services through that lens, we’re ignoring opportunities to add value by taking something away. What customers want now more than ever is a frictionless experience. Our job then is to remove as many obstacles as we can. When we begin thinking about how we could add value by subtraction everything changes.

Warby Parker’s home try-on service, subscription razors, digital accounting software, online check-in, free trials and same-day dental appointments, are all a result of thinking about how to remove a step in the customer’s journey while still helping her to get where she wants to go.

How can you give your customer more with less?

Image by Daliophoto

 

 

How Much Do The Answers Matter?

Asking questions is a big part of our job whatever our role. We know we can enhance our products and services and improve client outcomes by asking the right ones and acting on the answers.
So we send surveys.
We listen to what people say and watch what they do.
We go to the trouble of gathering data and then often fail to act on it.
We’ve become very good at digging holes to peer into.

Learning to ask great questions is a crucial skill both in business and in life. What’s even more important than asking the right questions though, is having a genuine interest in the answers you get back. We need to be more honest with ourselves about why we’re questioning something at all.
It’s just as critical to know how you’re likely to respond to the answer.

Image by Trygve Utstumo