If you hope to guide your business to the leading edge of your category, you’ve got to innovate. But all innovation is risky. So how do you to hedge your risk? Maintain a strong creative culture in your business with design strategies to foster, develop, and test new ideas at the extreme edge. By implementing the following four initiatives, your team can generate breakthrough ideas, test and improve the most promising ones, and verify with your own customers which ones are most likely to succeed and become industry game-changers.
1. Develop deep empathy for your user
The best ideas in your business will be inspired by an intimate understanding of your product users. Make sure your creative team is immersed in the user’s life. Conduct ethnographic research—the study of your users in their own environment, using “fly-on-the-wall” observation combined with face-to-face interviews. Though there may be negative comments, listen most closely to what users hope to get out of their product experience. Learn not only who the user is, but also who they aspire to be. What are they really trying to accomplish, and what tool would best help them do that?
2. Identify the gaps in your market
To find opportunities in your industry, step back and survey the broader category in which you operate or hope to operate. What are the major brands and products? How do they relate to each other? Can you plot them on a matrix or spectrum? Find a meaningful way to map out your industry, and suddenly you will see places on the map that haven’t yet been explored.