Innovation can encompass anything new that creates value — an idea, a product, a way of doing things. For many, it's elusive, imagined as something only the most creative can achieve. In fact, we typically hear that innovators are just born that way.
In reality, innovation doesn't magically appear. It's a skill — a discipline — that can be learned, honed and strengthened over time.
A couple years ago, I took a tour through Mattel's design center. The biggest takeaway from the day struck me at the end of the tour, as we reached the hallowed superhero section. There was a sketch of Batman and a sketch of Superman, and our guides explained that children don't necessarily always identify with Superman as much as they do Batman. People, both young and old, connect more with the guy using gadgets, training and tools to better himself. Superman was born perfect. But Batman makes himself super.
Here are three things about innovation that I was reminded of from that experience.
1. Use "two-sided solutions"
The Batman vs. Superman lens is one we use a lot to talk about innovation at Fahrenheit 212. There's a common misconception that innovation comes from nothing, and that you'll know it when you see it. It's just there, from the beginning, like Superman's powers.
Those who subscribe to this belief consider innovation throwing Post-It notes on a wall — celebrating every idea without constraint, and figuring out how the ideas work for the business later. Industry standard success rates from this approach hover around 15%.
The alternative is to become a bit more like Batman — to work on the tools and the training required to innovate. Part of this is knowing what a good idea looks like, something we at Fahrenheit call "two-sided solutions." These are ideas that must survive a process that forces solving for both the business model and the customer need in parallel. It's a process that we've seen achieve an 87% success rate, which certainly beats the randomness of the brainstorm.
You might have heard in a brainstorm that "there are no bad ideas." Of course there are bad ideas. We must be as ruthlessly accountable in idea creation as we are in any sport — there are winners and losers, and participation trophies don't really help anyone succeed or improve. Google+ didn't solve an unmet consumer need. The initial pricing model of Classpass was unsustainable for the business.
This isn't 20/20 hindsight — I'd argue that these are products of innovation processes in need of finer tuning. Learning to recognize and eliminate "one-sided" solutions early is just one example of how thinking of innovation as a skill set that can be learned, scaled and repeated can deliver something thought of as unattainable: predictability.