Innovation has evolved into a shorthand for progress in public discourse. Whether it’s a new approach, product, or idea, innovation is a process that moves things forward—in the business world and beyond.
At Giant Machines, we take a different lens when thinking about innovation. To us, innovation is an outcome rather than the process itself. We focus on driving outcomes and create an adaptive framework in our client work that yields different pathways for innovation to occur in practice.
Why (and how) innovation succeeds
Successful innovation depends on the presence of three key ingredients: a deep understanding of the people you hope to serve, divergent thinking, and an experimental mindset. Without all three, a supposed innovation will lack customer desirability, commercial viability, technical feasibility, or all of the above.
This begins with understanding your constituency’s needs, behaviors, and beliefs. For example, innovative products for toddlers need to reflect the fact that young children have different muscle groups and less dexterity than adults. Understanding users will manifest in human-centered design thinking, with innovation designed to serve people’s needs rather than forcing people to adapt.
With a deep understanding of underlying needs, divergent thinking further drives innovation by creating new and different ways to evaluate and eventually solve user problems. The same old approaches have allowed user problems to persist: thinking outside the box can circumvent the impasse.
Lastly, an experimental mindset can turn ideas into reality. Through an iterative process based on building, measuring, and learning (particularly through user research), innovations can be stress-tested to see whether they truly deliver progress for users.
How GM innovates with clients
Giant Machines focuses on helping clients articulate the underlying problem they want to solve and the business outcome they want to achieve. Innovation is intrinsically new and unproven. Accordingly, GM seeks to de-risk the innovation process by embedding human-centered design, divergent thinking, and an experimental mindset throughout the lifecycle of a project, informing everything from new concepts to optimizing existing solutions.
GM’s approach to innovation begins with what we call “strategic alignment.” At this juncture, we partner with our client to determine the impact we hope to make, the problems we aim to focus on first, and how we will measure success. A key part of this stage is identifying and prioritizing our assumptions necessary for success.
From there, we identify the quickest way to discern where we have critical gaps in our understanding, or “learning gaps”. This stage often involves rapid user and market research to deeply understand the current state and where solutions may lie.
We synthesize these learnings from the Understand phase to derive insights about users and other stakeholders. Once the full picture is clear, we leverage divergent thinking to develop hypotheses about potential solutions for the client problem, with a focus on creating multiple avenues for innovation.
These hypotheses are rapidly tested and iterated upon, building confidence for further investment and ultimately the first version of a solution. Ultimately, a successful innovation has to make the leap from hypothesis to a desirable, viable, and feasible solution in the real world, and this validation process determines what is worth the investment.
Finally, we partner with clients to develop an initial minimum viable product (MVP) to iteratively test until we are ready to build and scale the solution that proves to move the client towards the desired future.
Innovation happens at all stages of the product development lifecycle, from imagining new futures to optimizing existing solutions. It is thoughtful, evidence-based, and intentional. Most of all, innovation is grounded in a clear and empathetic understanding of the humans at the center to deliver progress.