Why do a few entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, seem to have come up with all the real innovations, while the majority of business leaders seem stuck in the rut of linear thinking? I have always wondered if innovation required some rare gene mutation, or whether I might be missing a simple formula for unlocking the ability in any intelligent business person to innovate.
While searching for an answer, I was excited by a new book, “The 4 Lenses of Innovation,” from Rowan Gibson, one of the most recognized thought leaders in business innovation. According to Gibson, you don’t have to be born with magic insights to be innovative. He connects breakthrough thinking to four initiatives, which I believe every kLab tenant should practice:
• Questioning deeply-held beliefs and assumptions. The willingness to challenge accepted approaches and propose non-obvious alternatives is one of the fundamental driving forces for innovation. This is a thinking pattern and a culture which all kLab tenants need to instill and nurture in every startup team member.
• Spotting and exploiting emerging trends. Innovative entrepreneurs have to start with a mindset of welcoming change, rather than trying to resist it. They don’t have to be futurists; they just have to be in the current time, not behind the times. Then they have to look for change, and continually hone their skills to turn discontinuity into opportunity.
• Redeploying skills and assets in new ways. Innovators leverage existing skills and assets in new ways, new contexts, and new combinations, rather than assuming that new resources are needed for new opportunities. Strategic partnerships with other companies are a good way to extend the boundaries of your business and recombine resources.
• Paying attention to unmet needs and frustrations. It all starts with a customer perspective to uncover problems and frustrations, and then design solutions from the customer backward. But customers also tend to think linearly, so they don’t always know what they want. It’s up to you to match what is possible with what is needed.
The next step to breakthroughs for kLab tenants is to take advantage of the powerful competitive advantage available to foster innovation and ideas, like the co-working open space, one of the fastest internet in Rwanda and the exposure to global mentors among many others.
Finally, even with the right mindset and kLab competitive advantage, creative ideas for kLab entrepreneurs still don’t usually occur spontaneously, or come in a flash of inspiration. Every kLab tenant needs to adopt a more rigorous process, like this eight-step one developed and tested by Thomas Edison and many others to accelerate the production of big breakthrough ideas:
1. Select a specific challenge and focus on solving it.
2. Research the subject to learn from the work of others.
3. Immerse yourself in the problem, to explore possible solutions.
4. Recognize when you reach a deadlock, and capitalize on the creative frustration.
5. Back away for a while to let the problem incubate in the unconscious mind.
6. Be sensitive to any insights which might shift your perspective.
7. Extrapolate the insight into a new idea or solution.
8. Test and validate the new solution to make it work.
With the right mindset, tools, process, and a little practice, any kLab tenant can lead their startup to new levels of innovation, competitiveness, and success. So don’t wait for the next Einstein, or a magic Eureka moment, to get you into the game. You too can make business innovation look easy.
By Pacifique Hallellua
kLab is currently looking for the first 15 startups to join the new StartupWave platform pilot before rolling out the system on a larger scale in Rwanda. StartupWave is a NEW kLab online educational platform that will link startups to mentors and prepare them to meet investors. It will help validate your startup ideas, learn business modeling, get mentored and develop your business plan. With its 7 stage process, it allows you to join in with your startup or idea at whatever stage it is – by providing advice, mentorship, business support and the chance for the access to funding if you make it through.
The StartupWave provides both pre-incubation and incubation services with online and offline support, and there is no need to travel, relocate, or follow a fixed schedule. The pre-incubation services are designed for idea to pilot stage startups (anyone with a business idea can access these services for free). The incubation services however are designed to help startups raise investment.
- A filled application form that you can find here
- Once accepted into the Startupwave program, pay 30,000Rwf prior to joining the program to the account number 4401141326 of the PSF ICT Chamber (at the Kenya Commercial Bank) and show proof of payment slip. Upon completion, 15,000Rwf will be returned to you.
- Submission Deadline: 7 February 2015
For more information:
- Please visit startupwave
- Do not hesitate to contact any kLab core team member for more clarification.
- Attend the kLab monthly meeting on Friday 6/2/2015 at 6pm for an info session about Startupwave.
About Startupwave:StartupWave is a virtual incubation platform that has been built and conceptualized by Intellecap in partnership with Government of UK’s DFID in India and GIZ on behalf of the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). This platform is designed in consultation with and is being used by incubators, corporates, funds and start-ups. The implementation with kLab is supported and financed by the EcoEmploi Programme of GIZ Rwanda.
I was recently talking to a CEO of a business I was trying to pitch our services to and he told me a story that was an important lesson to my company’s direction.
The CEO in question is an educated and seasoned businessman who also knows what they want from every endeavor they take part in. The story concerned their dealing with a software startup. The startup that was working on a custom application for the client refused to adhere to the specifications and the final product looked nothing like the expected product.
The moral of this story is that this behavior exists everywhere geographically and in all sorts of software related companies, small or big. Most of the time, we assume that we know what is best for customers instead of listening to customers. Customers wants and needs could be determined through their user experience stories and can be unearthed by asking clear questions or by testing your prototypes on (potential) customers.
This behavior is giving a bad reputation to the software industry as a whole. It feels like the customer care does not apply to the Software Industry since we can compensate with the technical know-how. With the competition high as ever within the industry, a good customer service and professionalism through the dealings with clients is paramount.
Think as if you were working in a clothes shop: would you ask a customer to buy the wrong size? The common sense answer is no. However, for one second, let’s assume that you do ask them and they take it. This would surely solve some of their problems but not all. For example they will be clothed but they will not be as comfortable as if they were in the right size piece of outfit. It is the same with asking a software client to take a solution that does not solve the entirety of their problem. It might solve some of their problems but not all. And that’s poor customer service.