Observation is all about getting new insights. The better you observe, the quicker new insights will come.
I was reading the ‘Art of Innovation’, the bestseller by Tom Kelly of the hugely successful design firm IDEO. Observation is a cornerstone in their innovation and design approach. Confronted with an innovation challenge, they start observing the interaction between user and product to seek the motivation behind the way products are being used.
Seek the rule breaker
Rule breakers are gold: these persons do not go by the rules of the product, but they try to adapt the product to their own specific and often quirky needs. So finding edgy rule breakers is vital as it generates insights on why existing products are not yet optimal in their design. Innovation happens on the edge because that’s where rule breakers are.
I don’t see myself specifically as a keen observer. So I need to do this consciously. And in my field of change and innovation through participation I’m on the lookout for edgy methods. One I recently discovered is Dynamic Facilitation and has revolutionary potential (I say potential because the method still has many flaws). A more day-to-day approach is to closely observe the meeting dynamics. Where are the non-vocal participants that sit on the edge, sometimes physically? What message do they convey? And why? Interpreting their behaviour can be key in finding those entry points that lead to a successful outcome.
Train your observation skills!
And with every thing that can be done consciously, it can also be trained. I use the following three rules:
- Use an expert or expertise to help you on your way. For example: if you wander through a forest with a mycologist, mushrooms will suddenly pop up everywhere and the way a forest looks will never be the same to you.
- Have a look at the issue from different angles. Taking this very literally can be quite fun and very useful. For example: picture your problem in the centre of the room and then have a look at it from different angles (such as lying on the ground). Actually the 6 coloured hats for problem solving that de Bono has developed does exactly the same.
- And of course do not forget to look at the edges…
It will help you getting innovation within a closer and quicker grasp.