The Question Of Transformation

Competitive advantage lies in the definition of fundamentally new questions to mobilize your pursuit of breakthrough innovation.

There’s a rarely-discussed but fundamental truth about the pursuit of growth-driving transformational innovation: the likelihood of an innovation project landing on transformational answers that increase revenues and profits pivots almost entirely on whether the new product and new services development process starts with transformational questions.

After years being delighted by the diversity of the innovation challenges coming over the transom— in Fahrenheit 212’s case, a decidedly mad mix of innovation success stories spanning wellness to whiskey, soft drinks to software, money to music, hotels to haute jewels, microchips to potato chips, and literally soup to nuts— you suddenly find yourself gob-smacked by the thread of similarity running through it.

Across companies, categories and countries, an armada of innovation teams sets forth daily, each with great promise, an aggressive, growth-minded leadership team, a formidable body of knowledge about its market space, and a tangible asset base spanning brands, infrastructure, technologies and market presence. Yet the majority struggle to unlock the transformational answer.

So with all of your competitors looking to uncover the same big answers, with everyone in your industry trying to understand your customer needs, how will crack the transformational questions that deliver results?

At Fahrenheit 212, we uncovered six principles that help us uncover big transformational answers. Download the full white paper to discover how you can guide your organization towards higher revenues.

1. Assume transformation is necessary.
The only way to get to transformational questions is to purposefully chase them, and this starts with assuming that transformation is necessary rather than an option. Assuming transformation is necessary changes the conversation in the team from ‘should we transform something’ to ‘what will we transform?’

2. Cultivate a healthy disrespect for present reality.
Consciously try to identify things
in your category, consumer experience, products and business that just are the way they are, without needing to really be that way. In most businesses, you’ll find a long list of these things and transformational questions hidden inside them. In an age of personalization, when there is such tremendous breadth in consumers’ financial means and trajectories, why do mortgages come in only 15 and 30-year increments? When less than 15% of the population finds full-strength spirits palatable, why is 98% of the category sold in a way that requires compensatory behavior? For inspiration, just look how far architect Frank Gehry was propelled by simply questioning the need for walls and roof lines to be straight.

3. Temporarily forget what you know.
Knowledge is a potent form of competitive advantage, but there is often a razor- thin line between a knowledge base and the entrenched paradigms that have been attached to it over time and permeated innovation in your category. Know that knowledge is power in certain moments in the journey, but kryptonite in others if not properly harnessed.

4. Ask yourself how likely it is that your competitors aren’t working on the same questions you are.
Picture yourself right now sitting in the room with a similarly-chartered project team at your key competitor’s office. If you can readily imagine them working around similar questions, you probably haven’t cracked the transformational questions you’ll need to get to transformational answers. The point is not to second guess what your rivals are up to, but simply to gauge your own conviction that you’ve uncovered transformational questions. Big thinkers find big questions exciting. So if you don’t viscerally feel that you’ve broken new ground, you probably haven’t.

5. Move the camera around the room.
Finding big transformational questions usually happens by distancing ourselves from the prevailing category context we live in every day and approaching it from a fresh angle. This doesn’t just work metaphorically,
it works literally too. Looking at your ice cream business not through the eyes of the consumer seeking indulgence, but from the perspective of the product behind the frosted freezer glass watching consumers go by, like an orphan hoping for adoption, may open a powerful new set of questions to ignite transformational innovation. If that doesn’t work, deconstruct the life cycle of an ice crystal born in the churn at the factory, or ask what the spoon would say as it’s bent in the act of scooping.

6. Learn to hear the thundering sound of the thing that isn’t being said.
Paradigm-creep isn’t just a company phenomenon. It happens to consumers too. They often become so accustomed to embedded characteristics and compromises that they don’t even think or talk about them. (When’s the last time you got to work and said ‘boy, how about that gravity today?’) The great innovator needs to ask at every touch point what didn’t we hear that was interesting. We didn’t hear a single consumer say they had consciously decided not to save. We didn’t hear a single hint of loyalty in a conversation about loyalty programs. The unsaid is often the most telling thing on the journey to transformational questions, and the answers they unlock.

Spend enough years zipping out the door each morning to pursue transformational innovation, and one day you hit a palpable inflection point.