The Innovation Readiness Process enables members of the innovation project team to prime themselves for the moment of conception—the showing up of a high potential concept—by fostering profound awareness of the requirements of the project, the wider context, and the dynamics at play.

The purpose of an innovation project is to conceive, develop and introduce a new value generator. The main types of value generator are product (e.g. Apple iPhone), service (Uber), facility (this website), establishment (theatre), and event (theatrical performance).
How value is generated

Readiness is the first stage of the Creative Lifecycle.

The Creative Lifecycle

The Innovation Readiness Process in detail

The Innovation Readiness Process
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Understand and probe the initial brief

Turn the initial brief into a working brief

Produce the Ecosystem Value Specification

Create an inventory of assets

Explore the wider context

Create a vision of realised potential

Prepare for conception

Understand and probe the initial brief

Understand the initial brief

The project team’s first task is to understand the initial brief. If one has not been provided, the team will need to produce it themselves.

The initial brief is formed of five sections:

Project name
Purpose
Context
Requirements
Non-negotiables

Project name

The project should have a memorable and meaningful name.

Purpose

This section reveals the reason for the project’s existence. It answers, in one simple sentence and using conversational English, the question: “Why are we undertaking this project?”

Context

Questions answered in this section include: What is the bigger picture? What is providing the impetus for this project? What is the story so far? What constraints are preventing us from bringing our desired reality into being, quickly and effectively?

Requirements

What specific results or outcomes are required?

Note: When the initial brief is probed, the value requirements of each constituent of the enterprise ecosystem will be specified.

Non-negotiables

Non-negotiables are the givens, the musts and must-nots.

The initial brief should state explicitly what is ruled in and what is ruled out.

Budget and completion date are included in this section.

Probe the initial brief

The initial brief is nothing more than a sighting shot. The project team’s next task is to probe the initial brief in order to expose any tacit assumptions and phantom constraints.

Challenge explicit and tacit assumptions

Such as:

  • This is a design thinking project.
  • The senior leadership team is at the root of the problem.
  • Change is slow and painful.
Expose phantom constraints

Phantom constraints are limiting factors that seem to be real but vanish the moment you turn the light on.

For example, a graphic designer receives a brief to design a new logo. The client’s non-negotiables include: “Do not use orange.” Instead of taking the constraint at face value, the designer challenges it by showing the client a dozen samples of colours that might be described as orange, and asks “Which of these are ruled out?” The client sorts the samples into three batches, which she labels orange, dark yellow and light brown. The phantom constraint has been revealed and new possibilities have arisen.

A common type of phantom constraint is what Gary Hamel (and Rowan Gibson—see below) calls orthodoxies. These are the norms, conventions, false assumptions, cherished beliefs, unwritten rules and sacred cows that impose limits on thinking and constrain action in an enterprise, sector or industry.

Every industry is built around long-standing, often implicit, beliefs about how to make money. In retail, for example, it’s believed that purchasing power and format determine the bottom line. In telecommunications, customer retention and average revenue per user are seen as fundamental. Success in pharmaceuticals is believed to depend on the time needed to obtain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. Assets and regulations define returns in oil and gas. In the media industry, hits drive profitability. And so on.
These governing beliefs reflect widely shared notions about customer preferences, the role of technology, regulation, cost drivers, and the basis of competition and differentiation. They are often considered inviolable—until someone comes along to violate them. Almost always, it’s an attacker from outside the industry. But while new entrants capture the headlines, industry insiders, who often have a clear sense of what drives profitability, are well positioned to play this game, too.
How can incumbents do so? In a nutshell, the process begins with identifying an industry’s foremost belief about value creation and then articulating the notions that support this belief. By turning one of these underlying notions on its head—reframing it—incumbents can look for new forms and mechanisms to create value. When this approach works, it’s like toppling a stool by pulling one of the legs.
Source: Disrupting beliefs: A new approach to business-model innovation, by Marc de Jong and Menno van Dijk, in McKinsey Quarterly, July 2015
Challenging Orthodoxies is one of Rowan Gibson’s 4 Lenses of Innovation, which are clearly derived from the three lens innovation model originated and propagated by Gary Hamel and his colleagues at Strategos in the 1990s (view evidence).

Rowan Gibson has named his lenses Challenging Orthodoxies, Harnessing Trends, Leveraging Resources, and Understanding Needs.

The 4 Lenses of Innovation, by Rowan Gibson

Turn the initial brief into a working brief

Once the team has challenged assumptions and exposed phantom constraints, it is now ready to turn the initial brief into a well-formed specification for the work that lies ahead.

Produce the Ecosystem Value Specification

An enterprise ecosystem is the constellation of entities—customers, suppliers, investors, regulatory bodies and so on—that affect, and are affected by directly or indirectly, the actions of the enterprise.

Ecosystem Value Specification, by Jack Martin Leith
The Ecosystem Value Specification process enables those embarking on an innovation or change project to examine each constituent of the enterprise ecosystem and determine:

  • What existing value must be preserved.
  • What new value might be created.
  • What anti-value generation should be eliminated.
  • What value must be sacrificed for the good of the whole. When value is sacrificed in this way, the consequent generation of anti-value must be foreseen and mitigated, and those experiencing the anti-value may need some form of compensation.

The reasoning here is that if the proposed project meets the value requirements of all constituents of the enterprise ecosystem, then the relevant people within these constituent organizations will support the project, or—at the very least—will not hinder its progress.

Note that creating the Ecosystem Value Specification is a painstaking process and much more than a form-filling exercise.

Create an inventory of assets

The team makes an inventory of tangible and intangible assets (called ‘resources’ in Rowan Gibson’s model), including core competencies, that could be leveraged in order to fulfil the project’s purpose and meet its requirements.

Explore the wider context

The team explores external factors that might have a bearing on the project, perhaps using a framework such as STEEP (Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic, Political factors).

Discontinuities will be of particular interest. A discontinuity is a convergence of events or trends that substantially changes the structure of an industry or the rules of the game.

Create a vision of realised potential

The team envisions a new reality in which the required value is being generated. The vision is outward-facing: its focus is the world, not the enterprise. It takes the form of an actual picture accompanied by a vivid and compelling synopsis. It depicts a desired present, not a desired future. And it reflects an ethos of world enrichment and unconditional service.

Prepare for conception

Now that each innovation team member is fully immersed in the dynamics of the project and has a felt sense of the new reality implied by the creative brief, the team is primed for the moment of conception—when imagination produces a concept having the potential to generate widespread value and enrich the world. The concept may reveal itself as a mental image, a crude sketch, a physical feeling, an inner dialogue, a few words, a symbol, or in some other form.

David Arnold
David Arnold is a British film composer best known for scoring five James Bond films, the 1994 film Stargate, the 1996 film Independence Day, and the cult television series Little Britain. He was appointed Musical Director for the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

During an appearance on the BBC Breakfast show, he was asked how he goes about composing music. He replied: “You walk around with your aerials out and it gets delivered to you. It’s more about feeling it than thinking about it.

See also David Arnold: The Hollywood composer on the scores that came to him in dreams, Puff Daddy, and why an MP3 is no match for a live orchestra, in The Independent.

In a future article I will say something about the remaining six stages of the Creative Lifecycle.

The Creative Lifecycle