The 4 Lenses of Innovation
I was pleased to have the opportunity recently to attend the Project Management Institute (PMI) EMEA Congress in Berlin, Germany, and in the process discovered an exciting new tool that I would like to share with you, called “The 4 lenses of Innovation”.
As I am sure you are aware, the Project Management Institute (PMI), is one of the world’s leading project management organization with over 500,000 Global Members and over 280 Local Chapters Internationally.
As a long-term PMI member, and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), it was a great opportunity to network with over 700 fellow project managers from around the world, including a strong contingent from Switzerland.
The highlight of the Congress for me, apart from the substantial networking opportunities, was the outstanding keynote presentation by Rowan Gibson on organisational innovation and his “4 Lenses of Innovation” practices. I was also fortunate enough to attend an extended MasterClass session with Rowan to experience the fundamentals of using the “4 Lenses” practices in a hands-on way.
Rowan Gibson is a consultant, author and speaker on business innovation. He is the author of several books, including “Innovation to the Core” and “The 4 Lenses of Innovation”.
Have you ever wondered where big, breakthrough ideas come from? How do innovators manage to spot the opportunities for industry revolution that everyone else seems to miss?
Rowan explained that, contrary to popular belief, innovation is not some mystical art that’s forbidden to mere mortals. The Four Lenses of Innovation thoroughly debunks this pervasive myth by delivering what we’ve long been hoping for: the news that innovation is systematic, it’s methodical, and we can all achieve it.
By asking how the world’s top innovators—Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and many others—came up with their game-changing ideas, bestselling author Rowan Gibson identifies four key business perspectives that will enable you to discover groundbreaking opportunities for innovation and growth.
The 4 Lenses
I was quickly drawn to the “4 Lenses” tool as it provided a fascinating and inherently “agile” way of thinking about organizational innovation. I am already very familiar with, and regularly using, the “Pirate Canvas” tool from the XSCALE set of practices, however the “4 Lenses” provided an expansion in the breadth of the thought process as well as bringing a well-structured process for its execution.
The heart of the approach is considering a particular business, product or service from four different perspectives, each of which is termed a “lense”.
- Challenging Orthodoxies
Questioning deeply-held dogmas and common assumptions within your company and industry.
This “Lense” is the closest to the XSCALE Pirate Canvas. Where we ask “What Sucks?” about a product or service, the Understanding Needs Lense encourages you to ask questions like, ”Why is this business so absurd?” and “What could we do more of?”.
This kind of questioning can lead to significant breakthroughs in thinking about your business model and what you could do differently to differentiate your product or services, or even define a new kind of market entirely!
- Harnessing Trends
Spotting unnoticed trends and discontinuities which could substantially change the rules of the game.
Being able to spot the next “wave” in your industry positions you to better ride it to greater business success. Digitalisation, AI, cloud computing, social media, globalisation, democratisation … what changes can you leverage to add value to your customers and use to create your next product or service?
- Leveraging Resources
Thinking of the firm as a Portfolio of skills and assets, not just as a provider of specific products or services.
In the tradition of the Renaissance innovators, the Leveraging Resources Lense encourages thinking about the skills and assets that an organisation has, which can be recombined or stretched into new opportunities.
- Understanding Needs
Learning to live inside the customer’s skin, identifying unmet or unvoiced needs and trying to address them.
How can you make the world a better place? What existing issues or frustrations could you help to alleviate? The best way to gain new customers is to give them something they need or want, even if they don’t yet know it themselves!
An Agile approach to Innovation
What I particularly liked was Rowan’s description as to HOW the 4 Lenses are used, in practice.
Rowan separated the participants into small groups (with somewhere between 6 – 12 people in each group, in our case 8) and tasked each group with focusing on a specific question aligned to one of the 4 Lenses. These groups were self-managed and contained members with a variety of different backgrounds and skill-sets. This enabled each group to focus, in detail, on a specific way of thinking about how to generate potential new ideas.
Each group then shared their “top” ideas. Rowan then explained that he would normally recompose the groups and mix participants of the different groups together, creating new groups containing representatives from each different “Lense”, who would merge the ideas and formulate candidate ideas for innovation.
The Four Lenses of Innovation fits seamlessly with the XSCALE practices for agile organization and makes a nice complement to the Pirate Canvas and other practices which constitute part of the XSCALE Product Management (XPM) knowledge area. I would certainly encourage you to do your own resource and find out how this tool would be of value to your own organization.
If you are currently using the Four Lenses of Innovation, or if you start doing so, we would love to hear about your experiences, successes and learnings!
Note: all information, content and images related to The Four Lenses of Innovation are the property of Rowan Gibson. The material is provided here solely here for information purposes.
Christopher William Young
Maximizing business value through organizational agility
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