Monday, January 23, 2023

Building innovation stamina: 4 basic workouts

When it comes to building running stamina, workouts may include a combination of stretching, slow runs, sprints, strength training, etc. What kinds of workouts are involved in building innovation stamina? Let’s look at 4 key components of innovation stamina and identify a basic workout for each of them. The 4 components are curiosity stamina, experimentation stamina, communication stamina, and collaboration stamina. Innovation is a team sport and hence innovation stamina is more relevant for a team than an individual. However, let’s focus on an individual in this article.

1.  Curiosity stamina: This stamina depicts one’s ability to remain curious about one challenge area for a long duration.

Daily workout: Listening: Spending time listening to people who may be facing the challenge or have overcome the challenge or carry some expertise related to the challenge area. If you are curious about a technology trend, then the workout may involve listening to / studying what experts/friends have to say on the topic.

Listening may also happen by watching a video, reading a book, research paper, etc. Any serious study would need the discipline of taking notes, keeping recorded interviews, etc.

A typical by-product of this exercise is framing one or more challenges with additional constraints e.g. focusing on specific types of people, using different metaphors or analogies, etc. With input from people, the challenge statement may undergo changes. Keeping a diary of challenge statements along with assumptions and constraints helps.

2.  Experimentation stamina: This stamina represents one’s ability to perform experiments to validate one or more assumptions or hypotheses associated with an idea. 

Daily workout: Prototyping: A prototype can be feels-like such as a before-and-after storyboard, or it may be a looks-like prototype such as app wireframes or it may be works-like such as a simulation model. Building higher fidelity prototypes typically needs more sophisticated tools, specialized skills, and more effort. The key parameters to watch out for are cost and speed of prototyping. You want the cost to be as low as possible and the speed to be as high as possible.

Like how a gym enables workouts, a lab enables prototyping by providing access to tools, platforms, and coaches. Hence, serious stamina builders try to get access to a gym or build a low-cost gym of their own.

3.  Communication stamina: This stamina depicts one’s ability to communicate one’s idea effectively in a short time again and again despite unfavorable responses in the past.

Daily workout: idea pitching: Idea pitching can start with friends and family. And it gets extended to mentors, investors, potential/current customers, partners, etc. A key by-product is a feedback which may be used to improvise the idea, the prototype, and the pitch. Investment is also a by-product, not necessarily in the form of money but it could also be in the form of time from a mentor or an influencer opening a channel to potential customers. 

4.  Collaboration stamina: This stamina represents one’s ability to collaborate with and co-create new products/services with colleagues despite differences in opinions or priorities.

Daily workout:  Brainstorming: It is common to meet over a cup of coffee but not so common to meet with a specific challenge as agenda to be discussed. And it is even more difficult to retain an interest in the challenge for all the parties involved. Collaboration stamina is the toughest and trickiest stamina to build. Who is contributing more? Who should get the credit? Questions like these would pop up sooner or later and need to be resolved amicably.

A typical by-product of collaboration is a joint project. Many challenge campaigns make it mandatory for the submission to be teamwork. Quality of listening and mutual respect play a big role in cultivating collaboration stamina.

To summarize, we looked at 4 components of innovation stamina: curiosity, experimentation, communication, and collaboration, and 4 associated basic workouts to cultivate those components viz. listening, prototyping, idea pitching, and brainstorming.