I wonder if some of the typical tools we have traditionally used for Innovation in most big companies, namely the typical innovation funnel, are indeed the best we could use. After going through an interesting training on the ThinkWrong methodology, which I certainly recommend, I would like to share with you a few quick thoughts around it.
This last week I was lucky to be selected, with some of my Innovation colleagues at Alstom, for a ThinkWrong training with Greg Galle (one of the creators of the methodology) and Conny Wagner. ThinkWrong relates to some of the principles of other well-known innovation methodologies, like Design Thinking, turning them around to make what I found to be a very interesting approach. The name may generate some rejection and discomfort when you first listen to it, as we are trained to look for Right, not for Wrong. Thinking Right means following the established and predictable path (very important for the operational cycle), but to break out of the loop in the innovation cycle you need to do something different, because freely paraphrasing Einstein, you cannot expect different results if you always do things the same way. So here is where thinking Wrong comes, as opposed to the established and sometime monolithical ThinkRight. A little provocative, indeed, but I believe that was exactly their idea… and I guess Think Different was already taken 😉
We had the chance of executing and facilitating a number of drills amongst ourselves, and there were several that really caught my attention due to their simplicity and effectiveness, a really powerful combination. For instance the SASU drill for giving feedback, or the Deflection Point construct for obtaining insights. I have been using Design Thinking techniques for a good number of years and I can say that some of the ThinkWrong drills will certainly enter into my “arsenal”. If you are interested, check their methodology at Solve Next
But going back to the initial proposition… during one of those drills I mentioned, giving constructive feedback to a team of colleagues, I realised that the typical path most of us follow in corporate innovation environments could be reconsidered. Most of us use a funnel of some kind, with a jury of subject or business experts selecting those ideas or projects that are worth the company investing in them to continue their development. This idea reminds me very much of the way Investment Firms or VC’s operate with startups, competing for the funds, an “only the best can survive” approach… kind of a Corporate Shark Tank. But during this drill, trying to give constructive feedback, I started to wonder if we could make this global corporate process more constructive instead of eliminatory.
This type of eliminatory process may work very well for the Private Equity world, but Corporates are not VC’s, and we have other strengths we should leverage, like collaboration between ideas, expert support from colleagues, sharing resources, internal knowledge crowdsourcing, etc. After all, we all have internally the goal of making our company better, so collaboration with our colleagues should be part of our way of working. I am not saying that a selection is not necessary, because resources are not infinite, but instead of a funnel with filters that only let a few pass through (“competing” approach), allow me to use the metaphor of a boiler with a fluid where little bubbles join to push a bigger bubble upwards (“collaborative” approach), so the idea that reaches the surface is then taken to the next step of the process. The “Innovation Boiler”… it does have a nice ring to it, does it not?
Possible, impossible… maybe similar systems are already in place somewhere… I don’t know, but it may certainly be worth a try. Happy to hear your thoughts on the matter and ready to start the conversation. Anyway, always allow yourself to wonder!
First let me say how much I enjoyed our work with the Alstom Innovation Leaders. I like your concept of the boiler. Our focus is on Opportunity Portfolios, multiple possible solutions (creating option value) and testing crucial assumptions to become more certain about which solutions might produce the impact required. The Bet Small and Move Fast Practices align with your Boiler Concept, applying heat to to important assumptions and sharing broadly across innovation teams what is being learned to effectively lift all boats (mixing metaphors here) Or raise all bubbles! The popularity contest of Shark Tank inspired innovation events does not produce the validation/ answers to The Super Seven Criteria required to protect capital, increase certainty, and progress toward high impact solutions.
Keep thinking wrong about today’s models!
Thanks Greg, glad you liked my little idea. Will certainly continue wrongthinking!