I had my first real life glimpse of the Google car last week. That car with the camera on the roof capturing every street in the world. As it meandered past I thought to myself, imagine sitting in the room at Google when that idea was flown. “Lets take photographs of every street in the world!” Most rational MBA grads and execs would not let this one fly, way too many impediments and I can’t imagine many businesses in the world geared up for this. Further, what does it have to do with search and second, who the hell is going to drive the cars… in fact, how many cars do we need? This all sounds a little crazy. 

We see this a lot. A good idea that flies true but often flies in the opposite direction of the organisations core competencies. Often the logical response to most ideas in the corporate sector is to kill radical ideas.  Questions like, do we have any competencies in xyz? Do we have any technical capacity in building digital apps or networked gadgets? Is there a clear business model and a way to capture the value being created? No! Then why would we even consider this?

Most strategic directors and innovation designers still use an opportunity evaluation framework in their box of tricks. They use it to score the value of an idea or the opportunity. It is often used by 2 simple measures;

1. Is this is a good idea? The new idea is often measured against they’re existing customers, then they ask, is the market mature enough and finally, what are the impediments to sustain a competitive advantage.

2. Is this a good idea for us? The same questions I mentioned earlier still apply, does this fit our current competencies, do we have the knowledge, do we have the skill, does this fit our brand, do we have access to the business channels or customers who want this kind of service or product.

Think back to Google Maps for a moment. Let’s ask the same question and answer it using an internal evaluation framework. “Lets take a photo of every street in the world.” If we apply logic, this is actually a ridiculous idea, no clear advantage with a mountain of impediments in front of it. The reality is, however you measure radical ideas, implementing a framework to measure them will also, almost always kill radical ideas, which over time, kills radical thinking and before too long, kills innovation. 

Once we measure the radical idea, we then move to the traditional channels to confirm our thinking, corporate leaders and execs come out of the wood works and we often find a multitude of people who will support the kill and give really good reasons why something can’t be done. Why? Businesses are optimised to deliver the current service, to deliver the existing technology, to drive the things they can see and feel and new ideas are simply challenging and often disruptive. 

How did Nokia go from a boot manufacturer to a mobile phone company? How did Nike go from a shoe company to a digital sensor and tracking company with Nike+? How did Google go from a search company to a mapping company? They needed new capability, new skills, new product support and new go-to-market partners (and the list goes on…).

Corporate companies are asking for radical transformation but radical transformation isn’t happening in the corporate sector. Once these ideas are weighed, they are killed almost simultaneously, with a scrap heap of ideas, aspirations, and opportunities left on the corporate dance floor.

So how can people and organisations create space for radical ideas? How do we shift thinking from the “way things are done” to a lean approach, to executing ideas that lead to true innovation? 

Focus on the end-user: It is not about us anymore, it is about them. Ideas, simple or radical need to be connected to a human need. Design Thinking is a human centred approach to innovation that integrates the needs of people, the possibilities presented by technology and the requirements for business success. If you can point to clear value being created for real users, it’s easier to defend the idea. Of course you need to find a way for your business to recapture some of that value, but the first step is to show the value.

Ask why & surround yourself with new thinking: This is why I like interns so much. Because they’re new, interns don’t know what’s been done before. When they ask why you’re doing something a certain way, you have to explain yourself, which can show long-held assumptions—and force you to rethink them.

Keep it Lean: The idea is to maximise customer value while minimising waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources. A lean organisation understands customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously increase it. The goal is to offer perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste.

Make room for play and lateral thinking: With logic you start out with certain ingredients just as in playing chess you start out with given pieces. But what are those pieces? In most life situations the pieces are not given, we just assume they are there. We assume certain perceptions, certain concepts and certain boundaries. Lateral thinking is concerned not with playing with the existing pieces but with seeking to change those very pieces. Lateral thinking is concerned with the perception part of thinking. This is where we organise the external world into the pieces we can then ‘process’ (Point 4 is via Edward De Bono).

Embracing lateral thinking will allow you to be more open to new ideas (radical or not) and to see the world as it could be, rather than the way it is.

How are you going to shape your future?