How to innovate during COVID-19
With the current conditions caused by COVID-19, never has the ability to innovate quickly been as important as it is right now. So many organisations are being forced to change at a rapid pace, to be able to continue to take care of their people. So to help, I thought I would share some tips on how you can ensure your organisation can stay innovative over this period and boost your own ‘creativity tool kit.’
Firstly, there are two parts to innovation, they are creativity and implementation. Both are equally important because implementation without creativity is just more business as usual, and creativity without implementation is just another cool idea.
Let’s start by looking at creativity. Creativity isn't a magical talent that you are either born with or not. There are a whole range of tools and techniques that you can use to unlock your inner creativity. Some of my favourite ways to look at a problem creatively are;
Brainstorming - There are many different methods you can use to brainstorm, although the tried and true method of standing around and sharing ideas as quickly and fancifully as you can, always works well to improve creativity. This is also easily achieved on-line with the assistance of tools like Miro - an online whiteboard and collaboration tool. Another low cost alternative is to hold a conference call and either share a document on google docs that everyone can edit together to add their ideas, or have one person capture the brainstorming conversation in writing, and then send a photo of the finished product to the team to ensure you capture all of the ideas discussed.
Drawing - Doodling is a key component to learning and the ability to think differently is crucial to creativity argues Sunni Brown, named “100 Most Creative People in Business” by Fast Company, and whose TED Talk on Doodling has been viewed by more than one million people, in her book, The Doodle Revolution: Unlock the Power to Think Differently. I start by drawing out some of my new ideas and then you can even create a storyboard using post-it notes.
Having Fun - Despite the tortured artist that we hear about, studies find that people are most creative when they are in a good mood. Researchers at the University of Toronto may have explained why: For better or worse, happy people have a harder time focusing. "With positive mood, you actually get more access to things you would normally ignore," they say. "Instead of looking through a porthole, you have a landscape or panoramic view of the world." says psychologist Adam Anderson, co-author of the study published online by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. This gives you access to a whole range of different possibilities. Stuck? Seek some inspiration by listening to some uplifting music or spending a moment sharing a joke with a coworker.
Questioning - Our brains are super powerful and very helpful so just asking a range of questions helps me to look at a whole new range of opportunities. I usually start with the standard “How Might We” question commonly used in design. For example “How might we create amazing experiences for people living in residential aged care?” Framing it this way is action-orientated and solution-focused, which helps unlock creativity. The '5 whys' is another technique that is really helpful. It is as simple as thinking of a topic and asking yourself why 5 times, so that each time you get an answer you are asking why again to go deeper into understanding the topic. This helps with stimulating different ideas.
Asking - Ask the people that are going to use the service what ideas they have. This can be achieved by picking up the phone to have a discussion with the users of your services. Social media is also great for this, just ask a question of your followers or community members. People love to help and so many of your followers will be very happy to participate. There is some merit in setting this up with your followers as a conversation rather than a competition - Boaty McBoatFace and Vegemite i-snack 2.0 are two great examples of what can happen otherwise.
Implementation is where innovation is really created and the most important thing to remember unless you are a brain surgeon or rocket scientist, is that done beats perfect any day. We have seen some amazing innovations implemented very quickly in the current environment that just goes to show how quickly you can implement when you need to.
It’s easy to spend a lot of time discussing internally in your organisation what the best approach is. The easiest way to break through this is to set up a way to test before you launch any new idea, so you actually find out what they need rather than guessing. What is the minimum viable service or the bare bones that you can go-live with and still have the desired outcome?
Creating an implementation plan will ensure that you keep progressing and all of the actions are taken care of. A clear plan will include;
An implementation date
What results you are looking for and how you will measure success
A list of all of the actions that need to be taken with due dates and the person responsible
What extra services you will add and when
A list of all of the stakeholders that you want to keep updated
Setting a go-live date and then working backwards to ensure that you have covered off all of the conversations and actions to successfully implement is helpful.
Ensure you have a way to measure the success of your creative new idea and then remember to take some time out to celebrate your achievement. Success builds success!