7 Places to Hunt for Creative Insights

Creative-InsightsI’ve been reading about innovations and the creative insights that have sparked many of today’s bright new ideas. Several Fortune 500 companies have been founded on a single insight about what customers want.

  • Starbucks brought a little bit of Italy to coffee shops.
  • Home Depot gave do-it-yourselfers access to professional supplies.
  • The Body Shop was built on the notion that buyers of beauty products care about humane animal-testing practices.
  • Fed-Ex was started because over-night delivery was a brilliant insight.

A Harvard Business Review article “Where to Look for Insight” (Nov. 2014) explains insight as an imaginative understanding of an internal or external opportunity that can be tapped to improve efficiency, generate revenue, or boost engagement. Insights can be about stakeholder needs, market dynamics, or even how your company works.

Are there any practical ways to increase the flow of insights? If we accept the premise that performance improvements require more than reducing errors, that it’s also necessary to increase insights, then how do leaders set the stage for creative insights? I don’t think you have to be a genius, but I do think it takes a special mindset to take the leap from the known to the unknown. And, from what I’m reading, most of us can learn how to adopt a mindset that facilitates creativity.

Seven Insight Channels

The authors of the HBR article summarize seven places to look to find new insights:

  1. Anomalies

Examine deviations from the norm: Do you see unexpectedly high or low revenue or share in a market or segment? Surprise performance from a business process or a company unit?

  1. Confluence

Find macro trend intersections: What key economic, behavioral, technological, or demographic trends do you see? How are they combining to create opportunities?

  1. Frustrations

Pinpoint deficiencies in the system: Where are customer pain points for your products, services, or solutions? Which organizational processes or practices annoy you and your colleagues?

  1. Orthodoxies

Question conventional beliefs: Are there assumptions or beliefs in your industry that go unexamined? Toxic behaviors or procedures at your company that go unchallenged?

  1. Extremities

Exploit deviance: What can you learn from the behaviors and needs of your leading-edge or laggard customers, employees, or suppliers?

  1. Voyages

Learn from immersion elsewhere: How are your stakeholders’ needs influenced by their socio-cultural context?

  1. Analogies

Borrow from other industries or organizations: What successful innovations do you see applied in other disciplines? Can you adapt them for your own?

What do you think? Where have you found your best ideas? I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

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