Innovate on COQ
Doing “COQ ” (rhymes with Poke) will get you somewhere. If you want to be an innovator you have to create something new — and how do you do that?
COQ stands for Curiosity, Observation and Questions. This COQ is not illegal, but it is rare and precious. Innovator’s should live in a constant state of COQ. Not a COQ “high” a COQ aware.
How do you discover that niche, that point of difference, that special value that customers will pay for?
COQ that’s how.
An innovator has to be Curious beyond measure. Yes, an innovator has to know something at the start, that’s why reading everything you can get your hands on about your area of interest is essential. But it’s not enough. You need to read and explore beyond your area of interest, and, you need to discover things about your area of interest that nobody else has. How do you do that?
COQ that’s how.
Curiosity is a real indicator of whether you have what it takes to be an innovator. If you have an insatiable interest in your area, it opens the doors and windows of opportunity. If you don’t have it, get Curious, it’s a choice. And don’t forget to learn all you can about adjacent-to-your-niche areas. It’s almost a cliche that innovations are often inspired by outsiders who come into a new industry area and apply an existing method, process, or idea to create a breakthrough. Call it cultural research,* exploration, mash-ups, call it Mr. Magilacuddy — innovation is driven by Curiosity first. Creativity comes later.
Observe with fresh eyes and ask yourself Questions. By “fresh eyes” I mean see like a child and don’t screen out the mundane, see things as if for the first time. Imagine if you will someone who is trying to invent a new cleaning product for the home. Imagine a designer or inventor watching, watching — observing — how people clean. How they clean sinks, floors, toilets, shelves. Wait, what did that guy do? He stood on a chair with a vacuum cleaner and used that narrow attachment to get a spider web way up in the corner. Now, maybe a new attachment would make that a lot easier, maybe a long thin tube with a flexible soft end?
Such thoughts are the start of innovation. Going blindly into brainstorming ideas is crazy** — be informed first by a new insight about your niche or market — have a better question to answer in brainstorming (COQ fits nicely into the Guerrilla problem solving model doesn’t it?***). Observation, by the way, can be done in many ways; think video, audio, web, neutral interviews, survey’s, etc.
I haven’t talked about how you keep track of your observations and I’m going to say more about this later, but for now, let’s just say, Get a Notebook and start writing things down. Write down your observations, write down the new connections you’re making as you read, write down the answers you find to questions, and of course, write down those questions. Notebooks!
The braver, bolder, weirder, and wackier your Questions — the more likely you’ll come up with some interesting, and valuable, answers. One of the places big companies fail with innovation is they ask obvious, and frankly, lazy questions. Example: How might we make our MP3 player smaller? Sony was focused on making a very small device and missed the opportunity of creating a music system, which is what Apple did. Apple asked the question “how can we create a cool music experience?”
So, is it time for you to do some COQ?
For Chapter Five, click on this link: http://www.greggfraley.com/blog/2012/07/24/notebooking-is-innovation-viagra/
* I’ve been inspired to further curiosity by the work of Grant McCracken, who wrote Chief Culture Officer. If you want to get an in-depth idea about how to be more culturally aware, read Grant’s work.
** KILN, the company I founded with Indy Neogy and Kate Hammer specialises in the front-end of innovation and pays close attention to Trends as a place to do new mash-ups to create breakthrough innovation. This is a better way to start brainstorming — with better questions.
*** I mention here again the creative problem solving model, or “CPS” — and I’ll suggest that if you really want to be adept at CPS, Jack’s Notebook is the book to read. Yes, it’s my book, and, it’s a great story that teaches, I guarantee you it’s worth the read.