Beginning with a blank canvas, page, or whiteboard isn't always the most conductive way to get the creative juices flowing.
Modifying something that already exists—be it products, services, processes, and so on—can be a much easier starting point.
When talking about innovation, good candidates for modification include:
- specific details about the customer (e.g. their desired outcomes, jobs-to-be-done, problem statements, etc.),
- value propositions (e.g. bundles of products and services for customers) and
- business models (e.g. processes relevant to creation, delivery, and capture of value).
When a more structured approach to modification is warranted, I like to combine the ECDRS framework from industrial engineering with the four actions framework from the Blue Ocean Strategy.
Lovely acronym ECDRS stands for:
- Eliminate: what will happen if something is eliminated?
- Combine: what will happen if something is combined?
- Divide: what will happen if something is divided?
- Rearrange: what will happen if we change the sequence?
- Simplify: what will happen if we simplify something?
The four actions framework poses the following four questions:
- Eliminate: which factors that the industry takes for granted should be eliminated?
- Reduce: which factors should be reduced well below the industry’s standard?
- Raise: Which factors should be raised well above the industry’s standard?
- Create: Which factors that the industry has never offered should be created?
The former emphasises subtraction, which is often overlooked in innovation, while the latter serves as a memento that value is relative and transient. Both useful reminders and potent creativity drivers in themselves.
And sometimes simply asking What would happen if... is more than enough to get the whole room roaring with energy.
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