The Heart of Innovation by Blade Kotelly
Good innovation should make your company feel uncomfortable. In this inspiring talk from Mind the Product London 2017, Blade Kotelly shares a process that he says will give you the best chance to innovate, although it doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. The process is based around Research, Design, Prototyping and Testing, but it also needs a focus – what Blade calls a “centreline experience”.
Creating innovative products is extremely complex. However, when you get it right, there’s a possibility you could change the world. Despite what people often say, there is a process for coming up with quality products and experience, which innovate.
Over the course of his years of running innovation projects for some of the world’s biggest digital companies, Blade has come up with his version of this process:
Identify Needs – here’s where you start trying to identify the space in between your users, business, tech and society.
Gather Information – perform research in all the ways you normally would, focusing on what people really do in the environment you’re trying to operate in. If needs be, get into your users’ homes!
Stakeholder Analysis – look to all your potential groups, who are going to care about what you’re doing. This is not just your users, but also your own organisation, the industry and anybody else you can think of.
Operation Research – what things could you be limited by? Time, scope, resources, budget and so on.
Hazard Analyses – where can you find the problems that are causing people difficulty? These are the basis of your product.
Specification creation – something too specific limits innovation. If it’s too vague, people don’t know where to operate. A good balance will give you the right environment to do something truly interesting.
Creative design – all the yellow stickers to get the ideas together.
Concept design – then you focus on the solution.
Prototype design – get to something that’s just enough to test your solution against the problems you’ve identified.
Verification – once again, user research and interviews allow you to be sure whether you’ve got something that works.
The Two Phases of Innovation
This is essentially the Research, Design, Test, and Repeat loop, but the heart of innovation does not lie here, although it is necessary to make it happen. The truth of innovation is that it happens in two phases over the course of a product or project. Phase 2, tends to be the Research, Design and Testing approach as above.
In Phase 1, although the same activities take place, they are done in a very different way. First you determine how to learn about the problem. Then you construct the questions to help you understand the problem and then you try to answer the questions so you can work out which are interesting.
Good innovation probably offends who you are as a company. As such, the most valuable insights come from non-traditional sources that you wouldn’t normally consult. Think outside the people you know, and focus on those that might have parallels to your service or product. If it feels weird, it’s probably a good start.
This centreline experience is the thing that your users can’t do without, and they won’t engage with you unless you have it. By finding insights from non-traditional sources, focusing on the problem you’re trying to solve and testing quickly, you can define the centreline experience at the heart of your new service or product.
An Apple Watch’s centreline experience isn’t about telling time – it’s showing you all the information about you, your body and your health. It doesn’t help you get to your meeting on time, it helps you detect if you’re going to have a heart attack before the meeting.
By refining your process, improving your skills in each of these Research, Design and Testing areas, and maintaining that focus on the centreline, you increase your chances of delivering an innovative and successful experience.