The business world is scattered with countless stories of groundbreaking ideas that were once thought to be futile or meaningless.
As one truly amazing example, there was a movement in the 1980s called computerphobia that aptly described the general public’s unwillingness to adopt personal computers into their households. To many, they were viewed as dangerous, and learning to use them was considered a chore.
Today, the personal computer has proved itself as a powerful and lasting difference-maker in our everyday lives. The important thing to consider here is that even the most brilliant ideas are often faced with resistance during their inception.
We call these powerful (but slow) changes to our pre-existing norms paradigm shifts. These shifts occur at market-wide levels but they also happen in your everyday life at the office or as you conduct your regular business. Below, we’ll explore how paradigms affect new ideas and how you can overcome the paradigms that you are faced with to make your brilliant ideas truly last!
When you think of the term “paradigm”, what comes to mind? Do you think of positive thoughts or negative ones?
Paradigms, which can be most simply described as “the typical model of a thing”, exist all around us. Paradigms are the norms that establish the routines in our lives. They even exist on your commute to work. Until recently, it was a decades-long paradigm to ride on public transport or drive your own privately-owned vehicle to get around the city you live in.
Then, the paradigm shifted and new options became available: ride-hailing services like Uber and Bolt entered the markets. These innovations drastically altered the way that commuters get around their geographic locales.
Paradigms are often applauded as people claim that “we are living in a new paradigm!” but in reality, most folks do not realise the consequences that established paradigms pose on innovation. A universally accepted model is, by definition, a deterrent to new innovation. Paradigms often prevent new ideas from being established because people get comfortable living within a widely understood model. This is true whether in the business world or through social conventions or many other paradigms.
When an innovator proposes a new idea that opposes an established paradigm, they are often faced with resistance. Uber, for example, is a worldwide phenomenon in the tech industry but faced incredible resistance in its infancy (and continues to do so). In 2017, #DeleteUber was the number one campaign on Twitter. The company has had to overcome powerful lobbying by taxi unions and other resistors to its ultra-competitive business model.
Do you face paradigms at your workplace?
The first step in overcoming paradigms is to understand them in the first place. With an Innovolo-facilitated ideation workshop, we start from scratch to develop some unique perspectives that are specific to your industry, brand, clientele, and operations. We overcome norms and existing models by stepping out of our comfort zones and entering new territory: a safe space where any and all ideas are considered, regardless of existing paradigms.
Baby steps for your young ideas
Ideas are fragile. Especially when they are young. That’s why you need to properly nurture your infantile idea. If you expose your idea to too much attention from the outside world, too fast, you run the risk of the idea blowing over and losing plausibility.
Rather, we recommend a methodological approach if you want to bring up a new idea through your organisation. For starters, only expose the idea to the most important people that have a relationship with it. Only involve people you trust and who have a business case for engagement. The idea will prosper under the microscopic guidance of your closest advisors. As the idea permeates your organisation and gains steam, more colleagues can join in and support the cause. By the time the idea makes headlines with your top executives, the idea will have too much support to shut down.
• This grassroots-style progression of a new idea is one of the techniques that Innovolo applies to B2B innovators with which we partner. We have had incredible success using this model to help bring out the best ideas from staff at organisations who would otherwise shy away from raising their hand and putting forth a new idea. Read more about our ideation workshops at innovolo.co.uk.
So just remember: your new idea will never be as vulnerable as the earliest days of its inception. It will only grow and improve over time as you consult with your colleagues, clients and vendors!
Examples of paradigms
Did you know that Uber was not the first to offer ride-sharing services? What about the fact that one existed over a century ago? There is evidence that the concept of ride-sharing dates back to the early days of automobiles. In 1914-15, the “jitney” breakthrough occurred when an entrepreneur slapped a sign on his combustion-powered automobile that offered rides to pedestrians for the same cost as a trip on the trolley: five cents, otherwise known as “a jitney”.
Within a short period of time, thousands of jitneys sprung up all over the United States, with some numbers reported as high as 62,000 automobiles operating in 175 cities. All this, in 1915!
You might be wondering: “why haven’t I heard of a jitney before?”
The answer is that the ride-sharing of the early 20th century simply could not overcome the massive paradigm that existed at the time. For starters, they competed with government-supported transit. Ultimately, the political entities out-regulated the jitneys and forced them to shut down. They disappeared into the depths of history.
This fierce opposition to the ride-sharing services of the jitney is not unlike the taxi opposition of Uber that still persists one hundred years later. The point? Paradigms are powerful forces that are not easily (or speedily) overcome.
Learn what is unknown
To come up with new ideas, how can you be sure where to start? How can you be sure that your idea won’t fail due to existing paradigms?
At Innovolo, we are firm believers in learning about the unknown. Your organisation should be comfortable saying “I don’t know” when it comes to exploring new trends or solving emerging problems. After all, there always seems to be a problem to solve if you truly want to overcome paradigms and improve the lives of your customers.
Part of uncovering the truth in the unknown is to ask around. It might sound simple, but the more you ask, the more you will learn. We find that some of the best ideation comes from conversations with staff throughout an organisation. As an example, you’ll find that the experts and the analysts bring a certain angle while the warehouse workers and sales attendants bring something completely different. All the viewpoints are appropriate and they contribute to the best possible pathway to improvement at your organisation.
• At an Innovolo-facilitated ideation workshop, the focus is to look at the world in ways that we are not used to.
• Integral to this process is a judgment-free approach: no idea is evaluated after the meeting. As such, the more you throw at the session (your ideas, that is), the better! Through tactful facilitation, all participants are encouraged to explore novel ideas rather than getting hung up on the practicalities of implementation.
Other success stories for innovation are centred on seeking feedback from customers. Many organisations are simply too scared (or too shy) to ask their customers for their thoughts. However, this feedback mechanism is one of the most powerful tools in your innovation toolkit. Millions of customers around the world are responsive to this methodology, too. A recent SurveyMonkey report suggests that 91 percent of people prefer if companies fuel their innovation by listening to buyers, compared to only 31 percent who think the companies should rely on a team of experts.
So then, if your teams struggle with realising any tangible progress toward innovation, consider integrating new feedback mechanisms into your workflows. You never know what seemingly inconsequential comment from a customer might spark an idea with your innovators!
An ecosystem for your ideas
Another often-overlooked element for fostering new ideas at your workplace is the environment.
We like to call this the “ecosystem” of your ideas. To use the example of nurturing a new idea like a child, you need to ask yourself some important questions, like “what kind of world do you want your new idea to exist in?” Ideally, it will be one where collaboration happens naturally and support is offered so that ideas can be nurtured and accepted over the course of their lifetimes.
To go back to the example of ride-hailing and ride-sharing services, Uber needed to scale at a tremendous pace and overcome the substantial resistance by lobbying groups and other business irritants. It did so at a time of an emerging ecosystem of mobile applications that connect contractors to clients. These platform technologies, such as Airbnb and other gig economy connectors, contributed substantially to the overall paradigm shift of consumer preferences shifting toward these new types of services.
Conversely, when jitneys tried to carve a piece of the market 100 years ago, that ecosystem was not in place.
Ultimately, do you really need to rely on an entire network of related innovations to support your own particular ideas? No. But you do need to build your own ecosystems to help foster your ideas. For starters, you need to promote idea-creation as an everyday business practice at your organisation. If ideation becomes the norm, then innovations will be more readily adopted and nurtured.
You can also build substantial networks through your vendors, investors, and other collaborators to help develop an even larger ecosystem for your ideas. The biggest trick is to remember that no idea can stand out on its own. It needs to be nourished in order to make a substantial impact on the world – whether that’s within your own business or externally to your customers.
• Want to brainstorm a network of collaborators during your ideation process? Consider working with Innovolo to build substantial relationships with appropriate collaborators in your industry.
• With an ideation workshop, not only will you develop countless new ideas and get your creative capabilities flowing, but you will get tuned into the process of ideation from start to finish.
• With an ideation session, you can start to build your own ecosystem at your workplace to support new ideas, whether they exist within your R&D teams, your executive teams or any other department of your organisation!
For more information about our exciting ideation workshops that can help your business break through paradigms, visit us at www.innovolo.co.uk