How to Pick the Right Innovation Framework

Picking the right framework that guides your team from problem identification to implementation is important. You want to choose a framework that inherently promotes innovation (or at least doesn’t eliminate the possibility of it). So how do you identify the right framework for your project?

It all starts with how you frame the challenge

There are frameworks out there that start with problem identification – and I have a big problem with that. You see, such frameworks assume that you do have an identified problem to start with. And that you have identified the right problem to solve for. And that the problem you identified is worth solving. That is rarely the case. Can you think of a framework that starts with defining the problem?

Six Sigma

Six Sigma

Six Sigma will rarely provoke innovative solutions. And I’d argue that if it does, then it happens despite the process not because of it. A framework like this will limit your thinking early on in the process to the boundaries of the problem or system right in front of you. It is a great process for pushing continuous improvements to an already existing business model, but it will not provide alternate solutions to attaining a desired outcome.

Let me give you an example

Let’s say that two teams were given the same problem statement of: How might we design eyeglasses for people with no ears?

Team A deploys a “define-first” framework, and starts collecting data about the problem. Their pool of potential ideas will include solutions like,

  • Use much lighter material (think Morpheus from The Matrix Movies)
  • Eyeglasses with rubber straps that wrap around the head (like swimming goggles)

Team B deploys an “Explore-first” framework, where they are given time to question the problem at hand, talk to the people with earless heads and empathize with them. This team will rephrase the problem statement as: How might we design a solution that enhances the vision of people with no ears? Their pool of potential ideas will include solutions like,

  • Contact lenses
  • Laser eye surgery

As you can see from this example, reframing the problem early on is an important step that will put your team in the right frame of mind. The perspective will be different. The way you approach the problem will be different.

The point is this

Make sure that the framework you choose inherently promotes innovation. You want to pick a framework that starts with an ‘explore’ or ‘discover’ phase. Spending time in a phase where you are researching, reframing, and questioning the problem at hand will pay dividends when you move on to ideation and solution development.

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