In all the bruhaha on business innovation and creative thinking, the focus is often on new ideas, and by extension how different the ideas are. I very rarely see an important dichotomy represented, that of developing ideas that work both inside and outside the organization. In companies, this translates into making money while also serving customers well.
Cheskin’s page on design and innovation touches on the dichotomy:
“Design can also be more effective than traditional consultation, again because consultation works from the inside out. Though they’re very good with internal processes, they don’t know how to connect with real customers through real products.”
In the realm of product design, I’ve written about this before in terms of balance in the user interface [ 1 - 2 ]. But how this gets done is still an unknown. Jeanne Lietdtke describes a sequential approach in Strategy as Design:
Strategic thinking accommodates both creative and analytical thinking sequentially in its use of iterative cycles of hypothesis generating and testing. Hypothesis generation asks the question what if…?, while hypothesis testing follows with the critical question if…, then…? and brings relevant data to bear on the analysis. Taken together, and repeated over time, this sequence allows us to generate ever improving hypotheses, without forfeiting the ability to explore new ideas.
But the ideas themselves must express both constraints: service to the customer and service to the company, all while being novel. I’ve worked with people highly skilled in generating balanced ideas and from what I’ve seen they don’t alternate between the two, they conceive of both simultaneously. Such people are directed by a moral compass and a pragmatic embrace of amoral economics, blended seamlessly. I’m reminded of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time.”