Chapter FourFinding the “Big Idea”

When most people think of innovation, they picture brainstorming sessions, cocreation workshops, and hackathons replete with colorful Post‐its stuck on every bare surface. Once you have established your goal, identified your target customers, and understood their problems, it’s time to turn to potential solutions. A good ideation process can elicit creative, out‐of‐the‐box thinking that is firmly grounded in customer understanding, injects new perspectives, and goes beyond traditional approaches.

Brainstorming new ideas can be heady and fun. However, if your goal is to maximize impact, good solutions to your problem may already exist. Although they are among the most innovative companies on the planet, Google didn’t invent Web search and Facebook didn’t invent social networking. What they did was dramatically improve upon the algorithms, user experience, and features of their predecessors. Similarly, before we leap to the conclusion that what’s missing is a dose of inspiration, we should be open to the possibility that what’s actually missing may be the perspiration required to improve, adapt, expand, operationalize, or replicate an existing intervention.

The fallacy of the big idea is that it will change everything. A good idea is indeed important. But we are more likely to achieve our goals if we don’t become too wed to any one solution, including our own. Instead of looking for the answer, think of each as an option to try, and allow data ...

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