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Innovation in the wake of coronavirus
In wenigen Sätzen
A growing requirement in a post-COVID world and the ever-evolving editorial society is to generate innovations – that is, imaginative leaps and combinations of existing and novel understanding, pieced together in profound and useful ways. In this article, Sam Knowles proposes a straightforward framework to facilitate such innovations. And it’s a framework that achieves its goal by proposing something unusual: taking time out and stepping away from demands to innovate at pace.
Timeout – the thinking phase
Taking timeout and time away from trying to solve an insight problem can feel – particularly to bosses – like a palace revolution. But to join old and old stimulus and make something new, we have to distract our conscious mind from the insight problem. Insight problems thrive on timeout, demand the focused application of subconscious processing, and are not reducible to predictable formulae. That’s how we solve analytical problems.
Eureka – the enlightenment phase
When you’ve been curious – chronically not just acutely – and given your subconscious mind the opportunity to combine acquired stimuli in novel ways, you need to be prepared for what having an insight is actually like. Intellectually, of course, but also emotionally, physically, and physiologically. When insight strikes, it often does so at inconvenient times – during a dream or just when waking, when out running, or in the shower. Prepare yourself to capture it, wherever you are.
Prove – the testing phase
If you’ve had what you believe is a profound and useful understanding, it can be tempting to protect your insight from the world and not share it until you’ve worked it up, polished it, and honed it. And while it’s important that you can articulate your insight simply and clearly, resist the temptation to spend too much time making it perfect. It could be an expression so obvious that everyone else has already had it, it could be the property of a competitor in your category, or it could just be a casual observation. You should be willing to share your insights early and quickly, with colleagues and clients, and start road-testing its validity as early as you feel happy to.
If anyone tells you they’re not creative or they never have insights, indulge them but don’t believe them. We humans are remarkably resourceful at creating new things – particularly at times of crisis. The key to innovation is understanding, but that doesn’t mean using facts, data, and casual observations as the basis for doing something new. Progress demands the profound and useful understanding of a person or a thing, a situation or an issue. And profound and useful understanding that truly effects change is that most prized and elusive of phenomena: insight.
One thing humans genuinely aren’t very good at is metacognition: thinking about thinking. By taking timeout from the requirement to innovate at pace – a growing requirement in a post-COVID-19 world and the ever-evolving editorial society – and learning this straightforward framework for insightful thinking, we can all make it very much more likely we’ll produce genuine, useful insights. While philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience have all been heading broadly in similar directions for 2,500 years, what matters for those at the coal face of innovation is a simple, reliable framework and toolkit to solve what can be the most elusive category of problems: insight problems.
About the Author
Dr Sam Knowles is a data storyteller. He is the founder and MD of corporate and brand storytelling consultancy, Insight Agents, and his purpose it to help companies talk Human and sound like people. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed book Narrative by Numbers: How to Tell Powerful & Purposeful Stories with Data,published by Routledge in 2018 ( www.narrativebynumbers.com). This was followed in May 2020 by the sequel, How To Be Insightful: Unlocking the Superpower that Drives Innovation ( www.HowToBeInsightful.com, also from Routledge). There’s much more about the STEP Prism of Insight in the second book.
A sought-after speaker and trainer, blogger and podcaster, Sam is the co-founder and co-host of the Small Data Forum podcast, which takes a sideways look at the uses and abuses of data big and small in politics, business, and public life ( www.smalldataforum.com). He is also chair of I-COM’s Data Storytelling Council, which has recently published a white paper titled “Five Areas Marketing Needs to Address for Better Data Storytelling”.