Getting Started

Innovation Strategies


While we just wrote out the process of innovation strategy as an almost linear singular step by step process — there is no one proper way through the loops of innovation.  

Innovation has no fixed starting point. Innovation has no fixed path. And ultimately innovation has no proper endpoint.

Where you start and how you proceed is entirely dependent on your organization's innovation strategies – where you are and where you are trying to go. 

Equally where you start and where you end up can be determined by many outside forces.

While we recommend, for the sake of learning the total process of innovation, that you follow this innovation strategy from beginning to end, know that the linear step by step process will rarely be the innovation journey you take. 

Once you understand the process, an innovation hack is to jump to the phase that best suits your strategy for innovation, developing a novel pathway.

For the sake of demonstrating the flexibility and possibilities of the process, let's look four common pathways:

Innovation Strategy 1 - You Have a Clear Understanding of What You Wish to Develop: 

Engage, Disclose, Deviate & Emerge - the 4 primary tasks of Innovation Design

This is the path of most entrepreneurs and designers. When you have a clear idea about what you wish to make, you can start with Engage and then move directly to Emerge.

While this path often seems the fastest and most straightforward — don’t be fooled. The process is loopy – you are going backwards – iterating, testing, revising, changing often. 

The advantages of this path is its directness. The dangers of this path is that we end up with a one-off product — we never fully develop an ecosystem nor realize the world-expanding or world-grounding possibilities of what we are making. We call this being “world-blind” and it is the fate of many inventors.

The answer to the problem of being world-blind is to loop through the disclose phase to see what world your emerging novel concept is a part of.

Engage, Disclose, Deviate & Emerge - the 4 primary tasks of Innovation Design

Innovation Strategy 2 - You Have an Existing Product or Service to Evolve: 

Engage, Disclose, Deviate & Emerge - the 4 primary tasks of Innovation Design

Often one already has a product or service in circulation, and the question is how does one enrich a (narrow) innovation (your solution) into a resilient (business) ecosystem or a more robust solution?

Or perhaps you are simply interested in developing what could come next out of what you have already done.

For this you are beginning at the “end” of the Emerge phase and looping back into the world disclosing practices of the Disclose phase. This allows you to experimentally uncover the deeper logics and richer paradigmatic potentials of your concept area. This process of deep paradigmatic uncovering moves one away from a narrow solution towards a resilient and robust ecosystem of multiple opportunities. 

With this deep paradigmatic understanding, you now move back through the Engage and Emerge tasks. In these tasks, you are testing out the expanded possibilities and forming a community of users. This process will then lead you into the final phase where you develop these possibilities into a reality. 

Innovation Strategy 3 - You Wish to Disrupt an Existing Approach: 

Engage, Disclose, Deviate & Emerge - the 4 primary tasks of Innovation Design

At the core of all innovation and making is the ever present potential for genuine novelty, also known as Disruptive Innovation. 

This is where the Innovation Design Framework offers a powerful new approach: Engage, Disclose, Deviate, Emerge.

While we have already covered this in the previous section, it is good to remember the process: Engagement moves backward into the uncovering of existing approaches/paradigms, and unintended possibilities which are then experimentally 

Developed via a sideways process of iterative blocking and following to develop a novel world. It is only after a novel world or paradigm has been developed that one can move towards the development of problems and solutions which define classical design and entrepreneurship strategies.

Innovation Strategy 4 - Some Stand Alone Tools:

Above and below Innovation Design Approach

Ultimately all the various components of the innovation process can be used alone or in new non-linear connections with each other. Here are six that we use quite often and why:

1. Uncovering (Approaches, Paradigms and Worlds): Change can only really happen when one knows what is going on at a deep level. We will use these techniques in a fast manner (diagramming forms) throughout. As you get good at seeing patterns, you recognize repetitive ones and it becomes easier to put them aside.

2. Exploration (towards Unintended Potentials): Using things in novel ways (puttering, playing and improvising) is part of our everyday lives — we are always asking: what else can this do that was not intended? The more one putters and plays, the more one recognizes “doing” is everywhere in life.

3. Staging and Experimenting (Block & Shift): Again an everyday technique we use constantly: block something and force yourself to act and think differently. The blockage does not need to be anything extravagant, and can often be fun (for example, blocking utensils at dinner). Not a moment goes by when the thought of blocking something does not arise. It is critical at every point of innovation.

4. Worlding: One exercise we do quite a bit is taking new and strange things, and then speculating on what novel mode of being alive it suggests — what portal to novel modes of being could they open up? 

Far too often we are world-blind and miss how potentially revolutionary simple things can be. 

In the story of innovators, it is far too often that someone else sees the worldmaking potential for something — inventors are often too close to what they make, or are working under the mistaken assumption that their invention simply “solves a problem.” It is important to always be aware of the alternative worldmaking potential of all things — especially the most mundane.

5. Strategic Joining (Map & Relocate &/or Re-engage): Mapping and diagramming, and other forms of visual thinking, are critical at every moment. Reality, change and creativity are dynamic nonlinear processes that diagrams help us to visualize best. Mapping shows diverse potentials and multiple alternative pathways, this gets us out of our fixation on single answers and narrow solution paths. 

6. Probing: This step is a way of testing a system to see what might emerge. In complex, highly dynamic situations, probing becomes the only way to get a sense of what is going on. Probes also keep us honest and outside of “solution thinking”.

on What Is Innovation, and How to Innovate

Delivered Every Friday