It is hard to cook a dish properly if you’re missing a key ingredient. And yet businesses often wonder why they have trouble getting innovation right. They know they need creative thinking– and lots of it. But they often lack the ability to transform their creative ideas into polished products for the real world.
Who can forget the Segway? Its inventor predicted that it would “be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy.”His unbridled optimism blinded him to the fact that no one really wanted or needed a motorized scooter to get around on city streets and sidewalks – and that $3,000 was far too high a price point for most people to even give it a try.
Or how about New Coke? Coca-Cola was certainly being innovative when it came up with a new formulation that beat out Pepsi in taste tests. But company executives failed to recognize that the public would angrily resent any change to what it considered a national institution.
The tech world in particular is littered with once-promising innovations that withered in the harsh sunlight of the marketplace, such as the LaserDisc, the mini-disc, Palm devices, and Groupon.
What all these examples demonstrate is that great ideas are not enough. Innovation – successful innovation – requires the application of critical thinking as well. This is the ingredient that so many companies miss. What is required is a robust integration of both creative and critical thinking, a back-and-forth, iterative process that fosters maximum creativity, while at the same time bringing a clear-eyed understanding of how an idea will play out.