A Matrix of Insights Into Innovation

Have you ever listened to a “friend of a friend of a friend” story and wondered why the storyteller was recounting something? Surely, you thought, there must be something substantial lost in translation–kinda like the old “telephone game” in which you are in a circle with others, share a statement with someone to your left, who does likewise around the circle only to have a totally different statement return to you. Well, I hope this blog post is nothing like that! However, I would like to share a book review by a friend of mine, Jeffrey Phillips. (Do the math–I have not read the book, do not know the author or his content except vicariously, but I do know Jeffrey and respect his commentary on a number of matters.)

Phillips is a prolific writer, speaker, and practitioner of innovation. As often happens with people who have created a following, he has been asked on numerous occasions to review books written by others having to do with his favorite professional subject–innovation. A couple weeks ago, he wrote a review of Creative Strategy, A Guide for Innovation, written by William Duggan, describing the book as follows: “a step-by-step guide to help individuals and organizations put Strategic Intuition to work for their own innovations.” It is to be noted that Duggan previously wrote Strategic Intuition. Innovation, as defined by Duggan, encompasses products, business models, entrepreneurship, and social enterprises. Phillips finds the book to be “a real conundrum, very specific in recommending (a) three step process (detailed below) and refuting or denigrating many innovation and creativity techniques, while at the same time the book can be annoyingly vague or indeterminate.” So, let me save you the experience of reading the entire book and just hone in on the three step process: rapid appraisal, the “what-works” scan and creative combinations. To quote Phillips:

Rapid appraisal is about breaking the problem into “chunks” or more discrete elements, often known as decomposition.  This simply makes a larger problem an association of smaller problems or challenges.  The What Works scan entails looking across industries, geography and time to see if anyone, anywhere has created a solution to any of the smaller “chunks”.  If so, can we adopt or modify the solution elsewhere to the problem at hand?  The third stepcreative combinations, asks us to look for creative solutions across what Duggan calls the Insight Matrix.  The Insight Matrix is a simple X-Y chart:  problem “chunks” down the vertical axis, potential solutions on the horizontal axis and interesting combinations at the intersections.

While Duggan may be the first to design his “Insight Matrix”, none of these tools will be new to innovators.  The concept of breaking challenges into smaller components (known as decomposition) is well-known to innovators and one that many innovation methodologies practice.  It is often easier to break a challenge or need into smaller components and build a solution up, rather than address the entire challenge at once.  

Creativity wordleLikewise, what Duggan calls the “what-works” scan is not new either.  There is an entire school of thought within innovation that argues that every problem has already been solved, it is simply our job to discover how and where the solution exists.  Bio-mimicry, for example, stipulates that nature has already solved many problems that we encounter, and we can learn from, adapt and adopt those solutions.  

Finally, Duggan’s creative combination approach simply suggests that we adopt the “best” solution for each chuck from the best alternative solution from the what-works scan, and create a total solution by putting these discrete solutions back together.  Again, nothing new here.  Good innovators know that most good ideas happen at the intersection of new technologies and markets. 

In the final analysis, the Insight Matrix is the best thought of the book–probably worth checking out, even if many other concepts take longer to develop and may not be innovative themselves.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s