6 Ways to Fuel Creative Advantage
CHICAGO — True competitive advantage is fleeting in any business, but creativity can be a durable source of differentiation for any organization, according to David Schonthal, professor of innovation and entrepreneurship of Kellogg School of Management and business designer of IDEO.
During a webinar to launch Winsight’s new Outlook Leadership Community, he spoke about "finding inspiration for creative business solutions.” With COVID-19 forcing foot traffic to plummet in convenience stores, now is the time for creative solutions to difficult problems., he said.
- Click here to register for Schonthal’s on-demand webinar to find his full presentation.
Here are six takeaways from Schonthal’s webinar …
Schonthal reminded business leaders to consider not just what customers want, but the reason behind why they want something. For instance, if someone is looking to buy a quarter-inch drill, what they’re really looking for is at least one quarter-inch hole. But why do they need that hole in the first place? If the customer needs the drill to install a light fixture in their favorite reading spot at home, might it be simpler if they bought a backlit e-reader instead?
“If we understand the real reasons that people are motivated to make change, the ways in which we might service that change and the way we might build on that change become more interesting and more diverse,” said Schonthal.
“These days in particular, you hear a lot about empathy,” said Schonthal. Empathy, he said, is important to understand the real needs and pain points of consumers.
For instance, a hospital system asked IDEO to help redesign the emergency room experience for patients. An IDEO employee checked themselves into one of the hospitals in the system pretending that he had a broken leg. He found that most of his emergency room experience involved waiting for a scan lying on a gurney staring up at a dirty ceiling for 45 minutes.
Schonthal said an incremental improvement to this situation might be to scrub the ceiling, but that’s not the root of the problem. Instead, IDEO suggested the hospital better communicate with patients why they had to wait for 45 minutes and to assure them that the doctor preparing to scan them is aware of them.
“In many organizations, things have been done the same way for 10 years,” said Schonthal, but the key is to bring in new hires and new perspectives, and encourage them to offer their opinions on how things might be improved.
Schonthal cautioned against giving way to the knee-jerk reaction to deny change, which he referred to as “corporate antibodies.”
“All of us today are walking around with devices that are designed to distract us,” said Schonthal, and this distraction has caused us to tune out the world around us, he said.
Schonthal encouraged viewers to imagine that they are a traveler visiting their hometown or city for the first time. “What would you choose to notice that you wouldn’t notice ordinarily?” he asked.
Diversity is a strength
“I would argue that diversity on teams needs to be more than multi-disciplinary,” said Schonthal. “It needs to be age diverse. It needs to be gender diverse. It needs to be racially diverse. It needs to be internationally diverse. In some ways it should be reflective of the types of consumers you’re serving.”
If decision-makers don’t have anything in common with customers and no one in the room acts as the voice of the customer, Schonthal said, it’s all hypothesis.
Embrace positive constraints
Anyone who’s seen the film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is familiar with the now-famous opening. It opens on a mysterious foggy field. The clip of horse hooves is heard in the distance, until it is revealed that there is no horse. It’s just two guys, one of whom is banging two halves of a coconut together to make it sound like there’s a horse.
Schonthal said that while most people believe Monty Python intended for the scene to play out this way, that’s not actually the case. The team making the movie could not afford horses at that point in production and were forced to make do. While this budget constraint might have seemed like an inconvenience at the time, it spawned one of the most hilarious scenes in cinema.
“How might you be empowered by your constraints?” Schonthal asked.