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Three mistakes great brands avoid to stay innovative

Posted on Categories Branding, InnovationTags

Speedbumps. Potholes. Detours. These are all barriers that keep us from getting to our destination, or at least getting there quickly.

The road to innovative thinking within your business often faces the same challenges. Sometimes we get detoured down the wrong path by the wrong questions. Sometimes there are unexpected bumps that keep us focused on the wrong problems. And more often than most of us would like to admit, we have tunnel vision that keeps us from seeing the big picture.

If you want to be innovative and grow your business, you have to first avoid the traps that slow innovative thinking and detour big ideas.

Here are three mistakes to avoid if you want to be innovative:

  1. Asking the wrong questions. Small answers come from small questions! Big answers come from big questions.
  2. Limiting your possibilities. Looking at problem-solving alone is not enough. Problems and possibilities are not the same.
  3. Being adverse to risk. All big ideas should have an element of risk, or else you aren’t thinking big enough.

Asking the wrong questions

First, you have to ask the right questions. By the “right questions” what I mean is that you need to be asking bigger, better questions. “What makes a better question” you ask?

First, you start by asking “why” to everything. Why are you proceeding down this path? Why do your customers buy from you? Why do we need this initiative?

By asking “why,” you immediately begin to question the status quo and open yourself up to exploring new ideas. Which leads us to the second mistake‰…

Thinking problems, not possibilities

One of my favorite quotes is from Steve Jobs: “I want to put a ding in the universe.” This kind of thinking isn’t about what kind of technology problem or specific customer need he was trying to solve, but rather reframing the challenge into something much more open-ended. Why limit yourself from the start by only thinking about close-ended problems?

Think like Apple – instead of starting with specific features or services your customers need, think instead about how you can make the work easier, or put more power into their hands, or provide them more value. Only after you’ve considered the “what if‰…,” should you then think about the specific pain points or problems.

Believing in risk-free new ideas

I would debate that if you can completely predict the outcome of a new idea, you are not thinking big enough. There will always be some unpredictability with really big ideas, and while you can crunch some numbers to see if you’re headed in the right direction, that alone won’t determine if your new idea will truly be successful.

Rather that rejecting this notion of risk completely, go ahead and embrace the surprises that new ideas bring to your business. Don’t see these surprises as mistakes, but rather as learning opportunities. (Yes, I’m well aware that many corporate cultures stigmatize mistakes.) Look and listen for other qualities that may provide unexpected value to your brand, and business, and incorporate this into your plan.

Want innovation? Then start with inspiration.

Depending on how open your team is, culturally, to innovation, this might sound like a lot to tackle at once. A good place to start is by seeking out new inspiration. Do as David Brady, CMO at the Houston Zoo talks about in this Brandonomics video. Look everywhere, even beyond your peers and your industry, to start priming the engine for new ideas. Start an inspiration wall at your office. Ask and share new ideas. Once you start observing and gathering more inspiration, you are on the right road to generating new ideas.

Now, go back and tackle those three traps to innovative thinking and start creating some big ideas.

Brandonomics from Savage – David Brady from The BusinessMakers on Vimeo.


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