Identify your business challenges and turn them into innovation goals
by Cecilia Thirlway, on 10 May 2019 2 min read
Determining your innovation goals can be a challenge in itself, so here are some tips to help you focus on the problems that really need solving.
All organisations have challenges, but identifying those that will potentially make a difference, and prioritising them as business goals that everyone can support with great ideas, is crucial. But where do you start? We've collected some tips for helping you zero in on the problems that really need solving in your organisation.
Talk to everyone (well, as many people as possible)
Most people will start by consulting the leadership team, board or management about what the organisational objectives are, and what they see as being the obstacles to achieving them.
However, it's also good to consult with people at all levels about the frustrations and challenges of their roles - from the receptionist to the directors, and everyone in between. And don't just ask them what their current problems are: this is also a good opportunity to discuss the organisation's long term objectives, and any potential roadblocks to achieving them.
Learn from the past
Don't forget to ask what has been done in the past, particularly initiatives that have failed, and explore the reasons for those failures.
It would be surprising if all your goals were unique to your organisation. Talk to peers in similar organisations (either in terms of industry, size, structure or offering) to see what challenges they're facing to achieve these goals, and how they're approaching them.
Focus on all three horizons
Most of the challenges you will hear will be about problems with getting the job done today: but what about where you need the organisation to be tomorrow? The Three Horizons model is a great way of focusing on the short term (Horizon 1), the long term (Horizon 3) and sometimes most difficult of all, the transition state of Horizon 2.
Cascade has a good clear introduction to the model, and the 70/20/10 rule about how you allocate your resources to each horizon.
Get the right people in the room
Some of this research should happen through in-depth, one to one conversations, but it's also worth running workshops, meetings and group sessions. When running small group sessions, make sure you have different types of role and attitude in the attendees, to spark conversations that might not happen otherwise.
IDEO's Ten Faces of Innovation is a useful starting point here or, in line with the Three Horizons model, you could look at mixing people who are focused on the day to day with the more visionary or experimenter types.
Plan and prioritise
Finally, when you have a list of challenges you want to start solving, you need to segment them into goals and think about what order to tackle them in. You want to aim for a mixture of short and long term goals, but you don't want to overload your community with too many challenges at once.
It's also worth considering the time required to assess ideas and test them using experts - careful planning will help spread that out so that your community sees continuous progress rather than stop-start or long gaps in the process.
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