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3 Ways to Systematically Come Up with Breakthrough Ideas

Abstract from http://innovationexcellence.com/blog/2017/02/19/3-ways-to-systematically-come-up-with-breakthrough-ideas/

Every organization wants to build a culture of innovation and a breakthrough product as soon as possible.

There are three ways to come up with an idea that has the potential to become a breakthrough innovation:

  1. Imagination
  2. Insights
  3. Challenging current assumptions


This is probably the way all of us think that we will come across an idea that truly has the potential to become a breakthrough innovation. It is rare that someone sit in their garage to imagine through thought experiments and come up with ideas for breakthrough innovations.


It is easier to systematically gain insights about our customers, their likes, dislikes, attitudes, needs and wants, as long as we are able to look at and understand what drives our customers behaviours – why they do what they do.

You also gain insights by doing a lot of work trying to understand or solve a problem that seems to be difficult for you get around and then when you are in a state when you are away from the problem and suddenly you get an insight that helps you solve the problem.

Challenging Assumption

This approach to coming up with breakthrough ideas is possibly the easiest way to systematize the process of developing breakthrough ideas.

The fact that humans have biases and mental models means that all of us operate with a set of assumptions and beliefs about everything around us: this gives us two excellent places to start our search for breakthrough ideas.

  1. Challenging our own assumptions – This is one area which is totally in our control. One way that we can continue to challenge our assumptions is by asking questions that not only unearth our assumption but also help in challenging them. For instance: What we think about our customers? Is that true? What kind of customers do we have? Is that the best kind of customers we could have? What would we do if the top 10% of our customers stopped giving us business? These are some examples of questions that will force us to think about something that we take for granted.
  2. Challenging our customers assumptions – It’s more difficult than challenging our own assumptions.  when you do it well, the chances of coming up with a potentially breakthrough idea is very good. Some questions that you could ask of your customers, that can help you identify the assumptions that your customers are working under could be: Why do you buy from us ? What are we truly good at? Why only so much and why not much more or much less? Who do you think are our competitors? 

We need to be aware of the fact that not every customer is open to answering questions like these. Not many employees of our customers would be able to answer many of these questions.

Also, we need to understand that while we may want to challenge their assumptions and not challenge them personally. There is a small difference between being curious and challenging your customers assumptions and being annoying.

In conclusion, It is important to understand that if we want to consistently come up with breakthrough innovations, we need to define a process through which we can systematically come up with potentially breakthrough ideas.

The fastest way to come up with breakthrough ideas maybe is to find time to challenge our assumptions.

More details at – http://innovationexcellence.com/blog/2017/02/19/3-ways-to-systematically-come-up-with-breakthrough-ideas/

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