By Chris Cannon
Innovation hasn’t always been a required practice for a company to thrive.
De Beers has always sold diamonds. Wrigley has always made chewing gum. Coca-cola has always made Coca-cola. All of these companies were founded in the 19th century, and in the many decades since, have lived at the top of the food chain through their marketing efforts and supply-chain dominance.
None of them have had the need to be disruptive, or to look at their business from a new point of view.
Most companies don’t have that luxury. The ability to step outside your pre-disposed nature and see your product from a completely fresh point of view is increasingly essential to a company’s existence. One wonders what might have been had Kodak embraced digital photography, Blackberry adapted to touchscreens, and Blockbuster embraced streaming. All it would have taken was a change in perspective.
This cognitive tunnel vision can be the innovation-killer lurking within your organization. When was the last time you put some real effort into seeing things from a new point of view? How do you adopt multiple perspectives to fuel your creative juices?
Innovation Perspective Games
Perspective games can help individuals and teams enhance their ability to step outside their usual mindset to develop their empathy, refinine problem-solving skills, and improve their team dynamics. Try some of these games, and maybe stumble across your next pivot before it’s too late.
The “Six Thinking Hats” method, developed by Edward de Bono, offers a structured way to approach problems and opportunities from multiple perspectives across your team.
How to Play
- Assemble your team and introduce the six “hats,” each representing a different way of thinking.
- Allocate time to discuss the problem or opportunity under consideration from the perspective of each hat.
- Rotate the hats among team members, or switch hats simultaneously as a team, allowing each person to contribute from different perspectives.
- White Hat: Focus on data and facts. What do we know? What information is missing?
- Red Hat: Emphasize feelings, gut reactions, and intuition. How does this make you feel?
- Black Hat: Apply critical judgment. What are the weaknesses in this idea?
- Yellow Hat: Think positively. What are the benefits? How can it work?
- Green Hat: Encourage creative thinking. What are some new, innovative ideas?
- Blue Hat: Oversee the thinking process, ensuring that rules are followed and objectives are met.
Let’s say your team is considering adding a donut food truck to its fleet of taco food trucks (If you follow us at all, you know how we love food trucks).
Your white hat would consider the added costs of inventory and branding. Your yellow hat would look at ways this would open up the desert market. Your black hat would ask if there are already too many donut trucks (if that is even possible). Your green hat would think up menu items that could thematically tie it to the rest of your fleet (taco-flavored donuts anyone?). And so forth.
Cycle through the hats to analyze your idea’s potential ROI, how it makes team members feel, the possible pitfalls, the advantages, and any creative ways it could be implemented. Then summarize the discussion and decide on next steps.
Role storming involves thinking from the viewpoint of someone else to generate ideas and solutions. You literally step into someone else’s role, leaving your default role behind.
How to Play
- Identify a problem or situation you want to explore.
- Have team members choose a role or persona different from their own.
- Discuss the issue from the perspectives of these roles, brainstorming possible ideas or solutions.
Role storming is often used for inter-office ideation, but it is a great tool to combine with customer discovery. Who might want those taco-flavored donuts, and what can you discern about these people that might make them more accessible?
The Busy Commuter is always on the run – they might be drawn by quick service, simple packaging, and a coffee combo. The Local College Student seeks affordability and sociability – late-night student discounts could draw big crowds. The Food Blogger is looking for something that stands out – make sure that taco donut includes an insta-worthy visual element (served with a jalapeno in the hole?).
Reverse brainstorming flips the script on traditional brainstorming by focusing on how to cause the problem rather than solve it.
How to Play
- Identify the problem you’re trying to solve.
- Ask “How could we cause this problem?”
- Generate a list of ways to make the problem worse or ensure it occurs.
- Once the list is complete, reverse these negative actions into positive solutions.
Low customer turnout at the new taco-flavored donut food truck? How could this be? In other words, how could we cause this if we wanted to?
If you wanted to tank this new enterprise – maybe you are an undercover industrial saboteur that was hired by the masala-flavored ice cream consortium or something – you might park the truck in a low-traffic location, only accept cash, and not tell customers about your new flavor.
But you have become addicted to these donuts, so you must save them by turning these negatives into positives. Park in peak areas of foot traffic at peak times. Offer multiple payment options, including credit cards, mobile payments, and digital wallets. Turn that taco flavoring from a “hidden treat” into your whole brand.
Practice Your Innovation Perspective
Innovation is a survival skill, and it requires constant practice. Innovation perspective games are powerful tools to shake us out of our cognitive ruts and encourage disruptive thinking. These games are not just about generating new ideas, but about fundamentally altering the way we approach problems – breaking down the invisible walls that confine our imagination and letting us see the full range of possibilities.
A change in perspective can be the key to unlocking your organization’s innovation potential. The next time you find yourself or your team stuck in a creativity rut, pull out one of these games and discover what you’re missing.
- Innovation requires the ability to shift perspective.
- Innovation perspective games can be played by an individual or a team to boost their disruptive potential.
- Changing perspective is a skill that needs to be practiced and developed.
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