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How to See like an IDEO innovation Guru

Ever wondered what those IDEO people get up to down there in Palo Alto, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Boston, London, Munich, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo?

Some pretty amazing innovation comes out of the IDEO labs and really they are not exactly labs - more like human interfaces for innovation and solution crafting. Ever wondered how the process works?

Well I was amazed that there is a lot of social science going on there - these guys are not all MBA's as one might think.

In a nutshell according to IDEO in order to start the innovation ball rolling in your life, business or community there are a few important things that you need to do:

1. Start Observing:- By observing IDEO means watching the world around you and developing a curiosity about everything you see. Ask questions why things are the way they are, look, feel and operate - take pictures of what you see and invest in a note book. Darwin down to Einstein had a note book, just saying! Record what you see but also record what you feel, you need to culture a feeling about your observations.

2. Consider Extremes:- Extremes are powerful teachers they will help you stretch your thinking and go beyond your own assumptions to get bold new ideas about everything. People who exhibit extremes are amplifiers of everyone's issues - "if we solve for extremes we solve for everyone". The further you stretch, the more illuminating learning from extremes can be - what I like to call fringe thinking.

3.Interviewing:- Once you have observed, captured your feelings and considered the outliers/extremes, dig deeper and interview people that are in some way connected to your avenue of investigation and interest. The interview if done well will uncover gems of hidden perspectives you never imagined possible and will inform your emerging understanding. Interviews will add a layer of context that will deepen your understanding of the problem.

4. Practice Empathy:-

What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, What I do I understand - Lao Tse. 

 Immersing yourself in empathy will be a powerful way for you to experience another person's reality with all of your senses. This will give you an uncommon view into someone else experience of a problem or experience and will empower you with the ability to experience first hand the 'real issue'. This process will help you make a personal emotional connection with the problem. Nothing will spur our creative juices more than owning and feeling the problem as if it was ours.

Remember - assumptions are limiting - emotion is motivating - common ground in unifying.

5. Insights:- Incredibly important, this is delivering informed conclusions based on the previous 4 steps. The trick here is delivering the insights in a way that motivates other people to 'get in on the game'. Excellent stories and shared insight is the heart and soul of new solutions - you cannot move to a solution with others helping you if the insight you have learned is locked inside your head! Insights are concise expressions that allow all the work you have done before become ACTIONABLE.

Insights need to be authentic, non-obvious and revealing.

Insights fuel solutions they need to be informative, inspirational and memorable to move people and create the momentum needed to start the solution process.

This is what IDEO does to drive the incredible innovation they are responsible for - social science mixed with pragmatic design and ROI determination -> sounds like a generalists playground to me. Lets play! 


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