What is Innovation? (part two)

1828_bWhat do you mean by THAT?

A few years back I wrote a post called ‘What is Innovation?’ and tried to put a definition around the word.

But, hanging a definition onto something that has become such a buzzword is difficult.  By definition, any word or phrase that occurs in so many corporate mission statements starts to lose its original meaning.

The definition has expanded.  Or, contracted.  Or, diffused.  Now we feel a responsibility to define what kind of innovation we are discussion at any given time.  Is this incremental innovation? Is it breakthrough innovation?  Is it market innovation?  Is it product innovation? We are obliged define what we mean by each of those terms.

Maybe it is safer to avoid the term all together.  In the space of product and service development, what are we really talking about?

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Our Stuff Will Tell Us Stories

Over at Flip the Media, Cynthia Andrews has a story on Josh Coulson, a data-based story teller at LinkedIn.

His focus is on the interface between big data and stories.   Companies are already using our activity on the web to send us targeted marketing.  He thinks we’re just getting started:

“The internet of things will bring about a whole new level of data that will enable companies to offer new products and services to each consumer based on their needs. We will continue to tell stories driving the level of intelligence in common decision-making further.”

So our stuff will know our habits and needs and we will get marketing messages that are tailored accordingly.  Not sure if I want my toaster sending me adds about whole grain bread.

Still, that worries me less than messages from my toilet.

The Role of Storytelling in Innovation: Part 3

photo by Reinis Ivanovs, http://www.flickr.com/people/untums/

Characters. You need characters to tell a story. The more vividly drawn they are, the better. This part of the story is about understanding those characters and how that understanding can help you meet their needs.

In Part 2 of this series we talked about actively telling the story of your context. We focused on the action and what’s happening in a particular situation.

We discussed the people in this context, based mostly on what they do and how they act in the space. We called them stakeholders. Each of them has some interest in what’s happening. They won’t all be customers. Some will influence the customer or the situation, but they all still have a role to play. A part in the story.

(Rest of the series: Part 1Part 2, Part 4)

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The Role of Storytelling in Innovation: Part 2

Observing isn’t enough.  Anyone can just sit and watch a story unfold.

With innovation, we must actively tell the story.

In part 1, we discussed getting the story of the customer by being a sort of armchair  anthropologist. A few weeks ago we introduced the idea of context.  Now it’s time to get beyond the theory and talk about what we should actually do with all of those observations.

We’ve got to move from passively observing the customer’s story to actively telling it.

(Rest of the series: Part 1, Part 3Part 4)

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The Role of Storytelling in Innovation

Research isn’t enough.  You can observe your customer all day.  You can run dozens of focus groups.  You can conduct countless surveys.  But does having all of that information at your disposal really help you create a product that will make your customers instantly fall in love with it?

Not if the product doesn’t help them tell “their story.”

Storytelling is fundamental to human existence. Before we could write, we told stories (both as individuals and as cultures).  In fact, much of our tradition and known history was handed down from generation to generation through storytelling.

An engaging story has the power to transfix us, to move us, to allow us to see things from an entirely new point of view.

Stories also enable us to find common ground with people that are different from us. Continue reading