Rowan Gibson is a best-selling author and sought after speaker. His latest book is “The Four Lenses of Innovation.” Earlier this year he received the 2015 Global Leader of Innovation Award, an honor he shared with two of his innovation heroes, Ray Kurzweil (known for numerous innovations including the digital music synthesizer and currently serving as the Director of Engineering at Google) and Dean Kamen (also a prolific innovator, best known for the Segway as well as his Slingshot water purification system). Rowan has taught and inspired numerous companies to be better innovators, including Apple, Coca-Cola, P&G, Volkswagen, and a long list of other names you would know.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers, Developers, and Innovators
Highlights from the discussion include:
- Everyone has the innate capability to be creative by learning the process for creativity.
- Examples of innovations coming from unexpected perspectives: (1) the janitor that recommended retrofitting an elevator to the outside of a building, and (2) a janitor at Frito-Lay created the best-selling Flamin’ Hot® Cheetos.
- How do we come up with the important insights that lead to breakthrough ideas? That is the purpose of the “4 Lenses” – a focus on the front end of the fuzzy front end.
- First Lens. Challenging Orthodoxies, which is questioning entrenched beliefs and assumptions and then exploring new and unconventional answers. These are people who don’t want to just play the game, they want to reinvent the game. An example is Elon Musk, not just transforming the automotive industry with Tesla electric cars, but also commercializing the space industry.
- Second Lens. Harnessing Trends – recognizing the future potential of emerging developments and leveraging those trends to open new opportunities. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is a good example of “harnessing trends” by seeing how the growth of internet usage would impact commerce. Amazon has continued to harness trends by developing eBook readers, streaming media, and becoming the hub of the smart home with its Echo system.
- Third Lens. Leveraging Resources, which involves understanding our limitless capacity for redeploying skills and assets in new ways, combinations, or contexts. Rowan shared that Walt Disney, the person and the company, are good examples of leveraging resources. The experiences created by animated movies was extended to theme parks, musicals, ice skating performances, cruise ships, and more.
- Fourth Lens. Understanding Needs – paying attention to issues and frustrations others have ignored and experimenting with new solutions to problems. A way to identify unmet needs is to ask what is wrong with a product or service from the perspective of a customer. Sherman Williams’ reinvented the paint can for their Dutch Boy product line, replacing the inconvenient metal can that had not changed for a 100 years with a plastic container that has a screw off cap, holding handle, and pouring spout.
- The integration of insights from each lens is where real breakthroughs can be found. Develop ideas for each lens and then look at how those ideas intersect with each across the four lenses.
- All of us our innovators – keep being an Everyday Innovator!
Rowan’s new book, “The 4 Lenses of Innovation” at Amazon – get the print version, not the eBook, as the book is rich with graphics that enhance the written content. I found the book not only valuable for the descriptions of applying the 4 lenses, but as well as for the numerous examples of historical and contemporary innovators.
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“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” -Edward de Bono
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