If you want to innovate, don’t start by thinking about technology.
Think about people.
In fact, take technology completely out of the equation, by banning it in innovation discussions, at least until you know what you want technology to do for you.
The reason for this is that technology should serve people.
Not the other way around.
People first. Then technology.
Technology should facilitate, improve, enable, [insert verb] a human function.
If you start with technology, you will miss the unmet human need, but it is here in which the real innovation lies.
Focusing on technology will firstly lead to incremental improvement [boring and likely to have been done], and secondly leave you stuck in a ‘today’ mindset [already patented]. However much you think you are innovating, you are not – you are improving.
Improving is not innovating.
If you really want to innovate, start with people.
Think about and example their lives; their wants; their needs; their desires.
NOT those of technology.
Start at the most basic level by understanding what people want to do, what doesn’t work today?
What is slow? Complex?
Then start to think about how you would feel when this is fixed NOT how it is fixed.
Focus on what you want fixing and what the problem is.
Leave the solution until the end. And if you have anyone with the word ‘architect’ in their title, then leave it to them to tackle this one. Just make sure that you present them with a clear definition of what is wrong, and what you want the system or process to feel like.
When you understand what people want, the hard work is done. Building the technical solution may be challenging, but if you know what you are building and what you want it to do, then you are well on your way.
It is easy to think of past innovations and retroactively apply this logic, so lets think about the future.
The future of healthcare.
If you ask people to think about the future of healthcare, the discussion quickly shifts to the role of technology: remote consultations, PC based home diagnoses, hand-held (Star Trek Scotty) style devices … and so on.
But whilst this may be part of the future, it is missing real innovation.
All of these ideas are either available or in development.
If you want to innovate, start with people and ask about their experiences today.
What would be their dream way of interacting with a doctor?
If money was no object, how would healthcare work?
If John Lewis ran a hospital, how would it be different?
What would you tell your doctor/dentist that he should stop/start doing?
These human questions, focused on today are the ones that will give you the insight to understand what is broken.
What are the unmet needs and what are the aspirations of healthcare users and professionals.
Meet these – solve these problem and then you are innovating.
The solutions will in many cases require new technology – this is fine – but before you include this as a solution, ask a simple question …
‘Is technology solving a human problem?’
If the answer is yes, then carry on.
If the answer is no, then go back to the problem and reexamine it, because you have not found the human need.
So all of this sounds very simple.
Want to know the honest truth?
Envisioning, futurology, scenario forecasting is a doddle to do.
Getting it right though …
That is very, very hard.
The lure of technology, the gadget, the quick fix is always there. And almost always wrong, because the solution focuses within the paradigm of how we see the problem and define the solution.
Focus on people though, and your chances of success are significantly increased.
This is because human needs evolve much slower than technology.
And innovation is where you close that gap. You make technology better fit the unmet human need.
It doesn’t sound too hard, but it is amazing how many people and companies get this wrong.
So the next time you are asked to innovate, challenged to think about the future, and think ‘what can be’ …
Don’t start with the technology, start with people.
I guarantee your insights will have the professionals reaching for their notepads.