Simon Banks - Innovation Mindeset

Should your Innovation Focus be Massive Disruption or Marginal Gains?

The word Disruption is hotter than hot when Innovation is mentioned in the corporate world. It’s either massive excitement about disrupting the market and kicking some ass or a lot of fear about being disrupted from some cheeky young upstart.

I love the concept of disruption. It’s exciting. Disruption is not only a course of action, it’s a style of thinking. Let’s think from the mindset of a disrupter is a great way to completely reframe the way we think and allows people to stretch their mind. In large organisations, this is particularly useful. It’s a great way to challenge the usual assumptions that we make.

Disruption generally comes from meeting an unmet consumer need. I.e. Uber: Why can’t a taxi turn up where and when we need it? As such, it is driven by human centred design and enables companies to spend some time in their customers’shoes.

So whilst it may be an overused word, it’s a great way to think and challenge pre consisting ideas and behaviour.

Is disruption the only way to shift your thinking innovate and get massive improvements? Definitely not. A client introduced me to the concept of marginal gains and this has become a huge part of my innovation language and innovation mindset.

A great article for the BBC by Mathew Sayed gives some great insight into the concept of marginal gains and the shift in thinking that it can produce.

He gives plenty of great examples including:

1. The British Cycling team: When Sir David Brailsford became director of British Cycling, he broke the concept of winning down into the various components of cycling. He believed that 1% gains across these components could amount to huge gains. Most importantly, he was looking for weaknesses in the team’s assumptions and yet to become problems. From painting the workshop floor white to spot dust through to redesigning the bus to aid recovery, the marginal gains started to add up to big results. If you follow the Olympics, Great Britain has captures 16 golds at the last 2 Olympics and well and truly knocked off Australia from its perch.

2. Hot Dog eating: You have probably seen these contests on YouTube or TV. If you haven’t, the idea is to eat as many hotdogs as you can in a certain time limit. The biggest of these is Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest. A Japanese Student called Takeru Kobayashi took a 1% gains approach to this contest and challenged the natural assumptions that there were about the way to win the competition. By breaking down sequence of eating into smaller parts
and constant experimentation with each stage he could make many significant gains. These included experimenting with dipping the bun in vegetable oil and water to wriggling around to rearrange the contents in his stomach. As a small sized outsider, he was able to beat some very big eaters (and people) and smash the then world record with 50 hotdogs.

So if it’s a disruptive mindset or a marginal gains mindset, the theme that comes through is the need to be constantly challenging assumptions. It’s not one or the other. It’s about constantly challenging the status quo in you thinking. It only takes one “what if” question for thinking to shift dramatically. If it’s a 1% improvement or a massive shift, changing the way that you look at the world and constantly challenging you and your teams pre-existing beliefs is an important piece of the innovation puzzle.

What assumptions are you going to challenge today?

About Author: Simon Banks is an author and International Keynote speaker on creativity and innovation and recovering artist. He’s delivered over 1300 events across the globe.  He’s the Director of creative training company VisualFunk, known for running innovation workshops, conferences and design sprints to brew fresh thinking and develop market-leading ideas. His book A Thousand Little Lightbulbs: How to kickstart a culture of Innovation in your Organisation is out now.

Photo courtesy of @sunsetgirl

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