We all need to innovate to stand out from the crowd. But what is the key to innovation? The answer, or at least an important answer, is becoming an observer. By observing how we and other people do things, we will spot opportunities for improvements. The more we observe, the more opportunities we will find. We can then work to provide solutions for some of the problems. By becoming a good observer, we will recognize the problems before many people do and have first-mover advantage.
Here are some things you can do to innovate through observation:
1. Don’t take things for granted
There are many things which look usual on the surface but have some hidden opportunities behind them. So open your eyes to observe even the seemingly normal things. Observe how you and other people do routines, and discover the details you overlooked.
2. Watch for inconveniences
Inconveniences are clear signs of problems. Are people waiting too long for something? Do they find it difficult to accomplish certain tasks? If you watch for inconveniences, either those experienced by you or by other people, you can easily find opportunities for innovation.
3. Watch for possible gaps
Sometimes we are so accustomed to doing things in a certain way that we can no longer see it as inconvenient. In that case, it is up to your imagination to spot opportunities for improvements. Maybe the current process is already efficient, but you know of some technologies you can use to improve the process even more. The difference between current situation and possible future situation creates a gap for improvement.
4. Follow technology trends
To help you with the previous step, you should closely follow the trends in technology. Familiarize yourself with the latest developments in relevant fields. This way you will expand your horizon of what is possible and make it easier for you to spot possible gaps for improvement.
5. Watch how your competitors work
You can get ideas for innovation not only by observing how people work, but also by observing how your competitors work. Is there something they do well that you can learn from? If yes, then don’t hesitate to take the idea and implement it.
6. Observe different people at different places
To get broader perspective of a problem, you should go to different places and observe how different people do things. By observing people from different backgrounds in different situations, you will see different dimensions of the problem. This way you will come up with better, more complete solutions.
7. Capture every idea
To avoid losing the ideas you get, you should write them down as soon as possible. Otherwise it’s very likely that the ideas will disappear and will never come back. So you should have a capture tool handy wherever you go.
8. Create a master list of problems
By having one central place to collect all the problems you find, you can easily compare one problem to another to find which one is more potential. If you want to, you can also classify the problems to make them easier to browse.
9. Review your master list of problems
Every now and then, you should review your master list of problems to see all the opportunities you have. After reviewing the list, you can take one or two problems to work with. The best problems to take are those which are both painful and solvable.
10. Take action
Eventually, you can take action based on the problem you choose to provide a solution. By becoming a good observer, you will have a head start in coming up with a solution.