Creating the right mindset for great innovation

After weeks of preparation, everything is set for your innovation session. The team have the time in their diaries, you’ve designed some fun and creative exercises and you’ve even heard that a senior team member will stop by later. But there’s one essential ingredient which is all too often forgotten – the right mindset for ‘a-ha moments’.

An a-ha moment can be the turning point in an innovation project… the spark which motivates the team… the inflexion point that changes direction for the better. It is often a peculiar combination of intuitive simplicity which also challenges the status quo.

The right mindset is essential to unearth and build on powerful insights. The ideal frame of mind is open-minded, uncynical and comfortable with ambiguity. But it can be tough to park the biases which stand in the way of reaching those breakthrough moments.

At STRAT7 Advisory, our experience has taught us a lot about shaping the conditions and context for the right innovation mindset.

In the latest instalment of our innovation series, Kate Jones, Senior Principal in the STRAT7 Advisory team identifies three key blockers and how you can design your sessions to overcome them.


Challenge 1:  

Being closed off to new possibilities – Rejecting new ways of seeing the situation or being hesitant to take risks due to worries about failure or negative consequences.

Why this can occur:  

On a cultural level, a ‘no’ mindset can take hold in organisations where leadership themselves are conservative, especially if more innovative approaches have proved unsuccessful in the past.

The behavioural bias Loss Aversion can also add further context to this mindset. We feel the pain of a loss more strongly than the joy of a gain. This can make us prone to avoiding the potential risks of new ideas or a change in approach, if the conditions are right.

How you can address this:

First of all, create a field for innovation by setting a clear objective and agreed set of guardrails at the start, within which any innovation is deemed ‘safe’.


Challenge 2:

Not putting oneself in the user’s shoes – Seeing things too much through the lens of one’s own experience, forgetting that they aren’t the user.

Why this can occur: 

When organisations aren’t consumer centric enough or when team members aren’t close to the needs of consumers it can mean that central insights and perspectives are missed. On a behavioural level, Confirmation Bias can mean it feels easy to anchor too much to our own experience and look for ideas which confirm our own world view.

How you can address this:

Immersing participants in the point of view and experiences of their end users is central, especially their emotional and sensorial experience. There are so many ways to bring the voice of the consumer into the innovation process, whether through co-creation, qualitative exploration (especially in-home visits), videos or even vivid scenarios written from the consumer’s perspective. When the challenge has a sensorial experience at its heart eg, health conditions or disabilities, empathy boxes enable teams to experience the tensions first hand can add a further dimension.


Challenge 3:

Playing it too safe – An unwillingness to break norms, disagree and disrupt

Why this can occur: 

When working in a team, especially with colleagues who you know well, we can often stick to group norms and suppress dissenting ideas to maintain the harmony of the group. This can lead to teams converging on a weak but familiar solutions too quickly and not taking the time to explore for stronger ideas. This is particularly relevant when an authority figure eg, a senior team member expresses a strong preference or point of view.

How you can address this:

Facilitators can design for ‘group think’ by creating opportunities for individual work or sense-checking in pairs where group think is less likely to be at play. They can also address group think or social norms head on, recognising when norming is occurring and encouraging the team to flip norms on their head eg, for a consumer health company creating a new format for their pain relief treatment, instead of being a white pill with a bitter, unpleasant taste, what if it was the opposite?

To hear more about STRAT7 Advisory’s approach to innovation challenges, please reach out to us.