Even simple changes to routine don't feel normal — such as writing out a ton of sticky notes and sorting them to get insight on your project. But experimenting with even the smallest of changes is what we mean by “work differently.” It is a mindset and an approach that is behaviorally divergent. And its very departure from the norm is what makes it hard to get going in most organizational contexts.

What behaviors are the norm in business? Well, there's conversing through email. There's going to meetings. And there's making and presenting in PowerPoint. (There's also walking quickly through the hallways, but that's in the service of getting those first three things done.)

Working differently is born out of design thinking, the innovation process, lean startups, and other non-mainstream business practices. It involves you, your colleagues, and your projects collaborating in new ways with new tools. But which tool should you start with? What process should you follow?

What we’ve found is that while exact practices vary, there are six fundamental behaviors that drive all successful innovation work. We call them the “six principles to work differently.” The principles identify the critical elements of design thinking that is action- and results-oriented. They are straightforward and applicable to any problem or development process. Rather than being linear, they are a behavioral methodology to guide your individual practice.

Understanding the fundamental behaviors is the first step.

 
 

Immersive qualitative research will help you unlock actionable customer insights.

While you may have worked in the industry for many years or are quite familiar with a particular aspect of everyday life, spending time really looking at and understanding what happens in a given context leads to insight. This is no time for stereotypical descriptions, conventional understanding, or common sense. It’s critical you immerse yourself in the world of whom you’re designing for, see it with fresh eyes, and question why it is the way it is.

Observe people in the context you're designing for and walk a mile in their shoes. By talking with real customers, and experiencing their joys, pains, and frustrations, you'll be able to view your business with fresh eyes.

 

Just as a doctor asks patients more about the different dimensions of their life to assess their health, so should you identify the different dimensions of your project. These dimensions can be used in simple diagrams with arrows and annotation that will help you visualize your project, its complexities, and the many possible solutions.

Diagramming isn’t about drawing well; it’s about identifying elements and their relationships, and representing them with basic arrangements, shapes, lines, and arrows — then adding information with annotation. Different layers of annotation can be used to address different categories of information.

 

When you’re good at your job, people expect you to have all the answers, and we’re often rewarded for our knowledge of our industry’s conventions. But figuring out new, better ways of doing things requires questioning how things are done today.

“Why do I have to go to a counter to rent my car?”

“Why can’t I subscribe to a cab service?”

Questioning the status quo opens up new space for thinking and imagination. Apply this principle in every aspect of your project — when visiting the field, chatting with colleagues, reviewing research, and evaluating ideas. Unlike most questions you get, don’t be so quick to answer them. Let the question force exploration and insights.

 

To have a great idea, you have to have lots of ideas.

The Dyson vacuum was the culmination of more than 4,000 prototypes. As for vacuums, so for innovation!

Imagining lots of different ways to address a problem is called “populating the solution space.” No problem or situation has a single solution. Great solutions often have hundreds of new ideas in them. Brainstorming and thinking up ideas any time of the day ultimately helps you create a solution that succeeds.

Don’t be deceived by verbal descriptions of ideas; visualize and model them instead. At first a sketch and then a paper model. Make a prototype to try. At each iteration, you’ll better understand your idea and get much more meaningful feedback from others.

 

Share what you’re working on early and often. The current mantra in software startups is, “No concept survives its first contact with the customer.” That’s because new ideas need to be seen and tested by those you’re designing for.

Feedback will help you make the concept better by shaping it in response. You don’t need to agree or disagree with any of the feedback — you just need to hear it.

People who are unable to receive all kinds of feedback to make their work better will struggle with the process of innovation.

Don’t make the mistake of keeping your work a secret. Learn to share rough ideas early and freely, striking up conversations with others, asking what they think, how they might improve it, or what they would advise. You’ll get great support for your effort because you engage and listen to others’ ideas.

 

Put together a short but compelling case for your project including the user need, the insight and proposed solution direction, summary of work to date, the real challenges you face, the investments necessary, and your project's ultimate value should you be successful.

This pitch will be important for securing local support, partnerships, financial resources, and organizational commitments. The pitch should be short but well-rounded and not just a description of the solution.

Demonstrate your commitment to the project by being both an advocate of it as well as a good listener to those who help shape it. Make small progress and share it. People who see the idea moving forward will gain respect for it and interest in its success.

 
Our team is a passionate group of professionals at Ignite who have been working differently (and loving it!) for years. We come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, but share a common love of creating new value and education. We're excited to work with you and your team to help you start working differently today.