Innovate By Creating Constraints

At the heart of innovation lies the necessity for fresh insight and new ideas. Imposing artificial constraints on your business model is one unusual way to spark creativity. McKinsey & Company suggests injecting stark-necessity into idea generation sessions.

Start by asking participants to imagine a world where they must function with severe limits. Maybe they can only interact with customers online. Or the price of your product is cut in half.  Suppose a major supplier suddenly goes out of business? What workarounds would the team suggest? What other resources might they tap into if the easy and existing solutions are off the table?

Using this exercise when there is no actual crisis can be an effective approach to shifting perceptions and unlocking ideas in ways that thinking about business as usual doesn’t make possible.

Innovate By Using Analogies

To spark your team’s creativity, McKinsey and Company suggests that it’s a matter of shifting perception. One way they recommend changing points of view is through analogies and associations. According to the Harvard Business Review, association – making connections across the seemingly unrelated – was the most powerful driver of innovation for 3,000 executives researchers observed.

Make it a practice to look outside your company and industry for new ideas. Try asking your team questions like, “How might a Disney engage with our consumers?” Or, “How might a Southwest Airlines cut our costs? “How would a Nordstrom empower our employees?”

Forcing comparisons between your company and a seemingly unrelated one will spur your team’s creativity and help then think beyond the status quo of company norms and industry standards.

Innovate By Challenging Orthodoxies

All organizations have conventional wisdom about the way they do things, and unchallenged assumptions about what customers want. Every company has its sacred elements of strategy or practices that are rarely if ever questioned. But, holding on to long-standing orthodoxies limit innovation and opportunity.

McKinsey says questioning such areas is exactly what’s needed to rethink how you need to do business today. Leaders can identify deep-rooted traditions by asking themselves and their team questions like: “What business are we in? What is the level of customer service that our people expect? What would customers NEVER be willing to pay for? Are there channel strategies we view as essential to us?” Then, systematically challenge the answers.

Such an exercise not only shakes up traditional patterns of thinking, it also liberates creative instincts. It can help generate original ideas that propel you ahead of the competition.