As someone working or studying in the field of innovation, you probably already know that there exists a wealth of tools and techniques to help you find your way through the innovation maze. So let’s start with a couple of important questions:
1. What do we mean by ‘innovation tools’?
At the simplest level a tool is something which helps get a job done — but it is not a substitute for the person doing the job. It can be extremely simple — a back of the envelope checklist of questions to ask — or it can be a formally structured, computer based aid to analysis. But in essence it is still something which can be used to help get something done.
We can apply such tools to the problems of helping with innovation and design in companies.
There are thousands of tools available — from simple well-known and widely used techniques like ‘brainstorming’ or checklists through to more specialised examples. And tools are increasingly bundled up into integrated sites which can be targeted at a particular problem area — for example, the process of identifying and developing new products.
Some tools are useful for the diagnosis and analysis end of things — helping clarify and focus information on what has to be done. And other tools are more concerned with implementation, helping to make things happen or to monitor and control what happens.
2. Are they useful?
The simple answer to this is that it depends on who is using them and why. A hammer in the hands of a two year old child is not likely to accomplish much constructive — but the same tool in the hands of a master craftsman can build a beautiful piece of furniture or help to construct a bridge. The difference lies in understanding where and when to use the tools, and having the necessary skills to use them well.
In the field of innovation and design support it is clear that many innovation managers do use tools and find them useful. But it is a matter of horses for courses — they do not all use the same tools and many are personal favourites or tools which they have found can help solve a particular type of problem. Much depends on personal choice and that in turn depends on experience, skills, etc.
With so many tools around there is probably something which is potentially useful for most situations. Whether or not is proves to be so depends on matching it to the particular user. We’ve tried to provide some frameworks to help do this, ranging from a simple browser through to mapping the tools into key categories linked to our core model of the innovation process.
Recent research has explored in detail the value of innovation tools and practices and you can find out more here.
Building upon our work with individuals and organisations we’ve put together an Innovator’s toolbox which we hope will help users to:
recognise situations in which tools can be effectively applied
put tools in context within a clear framework
judge which tools and techniques — if any — will be useful
maximise tangible results from the application of those tools and techniques
participate in a learning network through which this toolbox can be continually improved to user needs.
Here are some toolkits for for innovation and entrepreneurship
Market research toolkit: - Accelerating diffusion - Benchmarking - Blue Ocean strategy - Competitiveness profiling - Conjoint analysis - Ethnography - Kano method - Lead user methods - Quality function deployment (QFD) - Value curves
This Toolkit contains various tools to help articulate and focus customer needs as an opportunity for innovation. - Kano methods - Conjoint analysis - Empathic design - Ethnography - Lead User Methods - Repertory grid - Customer journey
Tools for innovation strategy development: - 4Ps analysis - Benchmarking - Blue Ocean strategy - Business Excellence model - Competency mapping - Competitiveness profiling - Five forces - How/why charts - Identifying innovative capabilities - PEST Analysis - Policy deployment - Product life cycle analysis - Roadmapping - SWOT analysis - Value curves
This toolkit contains a variety of useful tools to help improvement and optimisation – incremental ‘do better’ innovation. - 5 Whys - Cause and effect diagram (Fishbone chart) - Benchmarking - Blue Ocean Strategy - Business Excellence Model - Checksheets - Competitiveness Profiling - List Reduction - Pareto Analysis - Problem-solving cycle - Process Mapping - Seeing with New Eyes - Six Sigma - Value Analysis - Value Curves - Value stream analysis
This Toolkit contains a number of creativity tools which can help in the search for innovation opportunities: - Attribute listing - Analogies - Brain storming - Fishbone Chart/Cause and effect diagram - Frugal Innovation - How to statements - Lateral thinking - Levels of abstraction - Metaphor - Mind mapping - Pattern recognition - Rich pictures - SCAMPER - TRIZ