Hacking ideas to kickstart innovation

17th August 2017
Laura Scanga

As part of the process of creating our own digital products Energized Work is eating its own dog food. We help businesses who want to leapfrog their competitors, to implement innovation strategies and bring the best ideas to market.  As part of an innovation programme an idea hack day can unlock the tacit knowledge locked up in people’s heads.

Related: If you like this, you may like our guide, “Inside The Innovation Lab”

A hack day, or hackathon, is a day during which people with a range of skills collaborate intensively to create software. Idea hack days are similar, but the output is a list of ideas that could be developed into future products.  

To help kickstart our own innovation programme we asked members of the Energized Work Crew to spend a day collaborating on product ideas, problems that needed solving, or just wild hunches.  To help narrow the field we set some guard rails (e.g. must be B2B) and to help prioritise them we set some loose criteria (e.g. must have the potential to generate over a certain revenue threshold).  

The result?  Fifteen people, dozens of ideas, hundreds of sticky notes, and billions of synapses generating enough creative energy to power London for a week! By the end of the day we had worked up 12 ideas and voted to look again at 4 of them.  Of these, one idea was a problem encountered by Crew on an ongoing project. This is the one that we have decided to move on to the next stage.

We aren’t convinced that ideas must be completely new to be innovative. Utterly new, never-thought-of-before ideas are rarer than princes living as frogs, and everyone knows you have to kiss a lot of those! We believe that ideas built on what we already know can evolve to be disruptive, much like Facebook evolved out of a bunch of geeks who wanted to chat to pretty girls. The disruptive bit came later when people worked out what Facebook was actually capable of.

‘Lean’ talks of small bets and short iterative processes. Extreme Programming has learned that small problems lead to something bigger. Perhaps that’s why we believe that small things based on your experiences are better bets than searching for that one big idea. Innovation is a series of bets and even McKinsey says so.  Start small, learn, fail, do it again.  

One bet you’d always win though, is where Energized Work would end the idea hack day. Cheers!

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