The Innovative solution design funnel : The Journey from idea to solution design

Every major organization will have to innovate to stay competitive

And that is not news anymore. Everyone knows that organizations have to be innovative to survive, develop new business models and other jazz in this new era. But how exactly do you develop innovative solutions ? Other than buying innovative startups, which often result in the innovation dying in those integrated startups, the other only major source of sustainable startup is ideas generated internally by employees. Remember that there are few major aspects to it: building a culture of innovation, re-skilling your workforce etc. which are beyond the scope of this article.

An innovative idea needs to be processed through a thinking funnel

As the headline of one of the articles recently in Forbes said -“Innovation is more than an idead”.

One aspect of building a culture of innovation is to train your leaders to innovate. As a large organizations, the probability of innovation coming your way is when your seasoned professionals develop a new way of thinking. This new way combined with their deep knowledge of your business’ unique challenges can lead them to strategize innovative solutions. However, there is a journey, in terms of granularity that an innovative solution idea takes before it gets to the solution design stage. Note that the terminology Innovative solutions funnel is not a standard terminology but a framework I think that needs to be (and is generally) followed to generate innovative solutions.

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Three main thinking processes in the Innovation solution design funnel: Futurist, Theorist and Architect

Let us try to understand these three thought processes leveraging an example. The example here is made up but at the end of this article is a real life example of a solution I recently came up with and have applied for provisional patent for the same. Think about these three processes as three thinking hats : You start thinking about an idea as a futurist all the way to being an architect, at which stage it goes to the solution design phase.

Futurist : A Futurist has the potential to see beyond the boundaries of a business model to envision new operating models using enablers like Technology. As an example: Assume the year is 2000, you work for a leading eCommerce company and you think of an idea, what if we deliver packages using drones.

Theorist : We will need to develop a solution to plan and manage these drone deliveries. However, it has many limits that need to be overcome. In addition to thinking about the solution at a high level, as an adaptive thinker are going to think about how to incorporate answers to questions like below in your solution:

  • What if there are 5,000 drones over a major city at the same time?
  • Is a drone-jam legal? What about the noise over the city? What about tourism?
  • What about the weather? Weather forecasts are difficult to make, so how is this scheduled?

Architect : This is the thinking hat where you blueprint the design at a high level. In this case, you will try throwing in the high level granularity of the solution- like maybe a reinforcement learning algorithm should be the foundation of the solution, how that solution will then interact with an aerial climate pattern radar data and FAA flight routes. There will still be assumptions built like Federal government will authorize full scale commercial usage for delivery purposes and will float guidelines and regulations around that.

At this stage, the idea gets out of the funnel as a high level solution and goes into the solution design phase. More operational granularity will be added in this phase and an actual proof of concept may get developed.

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💨 Innovative solution funnel framework has copyright application pending.

💨 Here is an illustration of the three stages of the thought process for a solution that I recently patented.

There are many virtual changing room apps but most of them are focused on size charts. But there is another important customer aspect that is often missed and is a primary reason for returns. Go through the illustration to learn more.

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