Beyond the Obvious by Phil McKinney – Innovation – FIRE Method: Focus, Ideation, Classification, Execution
Today’s hypercompetitive global marketplace demands that organizations continually play their A-game, whether it is their customers, products and services, or operations. New and viable ideas are key to reinventing and capturing your competitive advantage. However, brainstorming can seem like a chaotic process.
Phil McKinney is the author of the new book, Beyond the obvious: killer questions sparking groundbreaking innovation. He is an innovation expert who has served as a chief technology officer (CTO) for leading technology companies and also runs innovation boot camps.
McKinney advocates using his Killer Questions and FIRE (focus, ideation, classification, execution) method to produce a strategic order in the innovation process.
He says that knowledge is becoming a commodity. Today, your competitive advantage stems from your desire to continually access and use your creative skills to help your organization address its challenges. He also admits that creativity is hard work.
The McKinney FIRE method has a simple structure and is applicable to companies of any size. It is flexible enough to meet the challenges of generating ideas. It helps you identify the most important ideas to work on to improve your chances of translating those ideas into successful killer innovations.
The FIRE method works because it addresses the innovation gap and lag that all organizations face. Tea innovation gap it’s the difference between the need for great ideas and the actual supply of them. “All organizations can use a supply of more and better ideas,” says McKinney. FIRE provides you with a system that improves the quality and quantity of ideas. Tea innovation lag is the time that elapses from when an idea is selected for execution until a product is launched on the market.
Both the innovation gap and lag are caused by several factors: corporate antibodies (detractors); assumptions about how your organization should function; viable ideas; and who are your customers.
ATTENTION. It’s not about limiting your search for ideas, but about using a systematic approach to ensure that all relevant areas are covered.
Any innovation effort must explore three areas to cover all the bases:
- Who is the person or organization you sell your product or service to?
- What is the product or service?
- How does your organization create, deliver and support your product or service for the customer?
McKinney finds that most companies focus on the customer (who) and the product (what). They tend to ignore everything else the organization does to function (how). Examine all three areas and you will capture your competitive advantage. Examine them individually, but eventually cover all three areas to eliminate potential blind spots. The focus should be an endless process of cycling through the three areas.
IDEATION. McKinney’s Killer Questions are used in the Ideation Phase of FIRE. Killer Questions keep you focused on a specific area of your business, be it your customers, products, or operations. They also keep you looking for expansive ideas within that area. Killer Questions help you see problems from perspectives you may not have considered before. They also keep you informed of possible answers that fall outside of your existing assumptions about how and why you do the things you do.
McKinney denies the assumption that ideas can only come from a certain person or department within his organization. It is critical to believe that a great idea will come from a seemingly random place.
CLASSIFICATION. The innovation process generally leaves the decisions to higher-level managers. But they are not always involved in the process of creating and selecting the best ideas. The ideas they like can be strongly influenced by personal preferences and biases. The chance that your ideas will be selected to become killer innovations will be low. A defined classification system helps people to put aside their prejudices and look at ideas from a broader perspective.
McKinney says it is a myth that the process of ranking the best ideas must be a complex set of analyzes. Your system uses questions to determine which ideas will have meaningful results and align with your basic skills and experience. The team scores five questions for each idea generated in the innovation workshop.
When designing a rating system, keep in mind how important it is to remove biases and influence in the voting phase. “Anonymity significantly changes group dynamics, so it’s critical that people don’t know how other people are voting,” says McKinney.
EXECUTION. McKinney’s motto is “Ideas without execution are a hobby and I’m not in the hobby business.” Execution is a risk. It requires commitment, money and manpower. Successful execution is a balance between pressuring your organization to take a risk and pressing your case so hard that it scares the corporate antibodies into retreat.
The FIRE implementation phase uses a “closed funding” model. It ensures that good ideas have a chance to prove themselves, while ensuring that your organization is not overexposed to risk should an idea fail.
McKinney believes that innovation requires a disciplined and methodical approach. It begins by addressing the assumptions of your industry and company, managing the inevitable shocks, and neutralizing your corporate antibodies. Master these three preliminary steps; and incorporate the FIRE method and the closed financing model to move towards true innovation.
For a list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies, as ranked by Fast Company, visit: http://www.fastcompany.com/most-innovative-companies/2012/full-list.