What does innovation mean?
This was a question posed to us by Aaron Aders, our co-founder and Chief Operation Officer. While many of us innovate without much thought, we aren’t typically tasked with defining what innovation means to us. What does it mean to us as individuals? What does it mean to us as professionals in our industry? To answer these questions, Aders has formed what we call the Innovation Task Force.
A large task, when stated like that, but innovation is necessary. Not just in the SEO industry, but in every industry. Jason Randal, the magician, often has to innovate to stay relevant in his industry. To do so, he answers the following questions:
Our mission: to provide Slingshot with the requisite knowledge to develop innovative products and processes by identifying and leveraging new opportunities and technologies.
- What is the real problem?
- How do we do it?
- How do we hide it?
- How do we sell it?
What is the real problem?
We view innovation as a creative solution to a problem, but what is the problem? Defining the true problem is the starting point for any good innovator. Many times, we rush to a solution of what we see as urgent, without valuing what is truly important. Sometimes we need to stop, take a few minutes and assess the situation. At the top level, what are we trying to accomplish? This is the most important aspect of the innovation process.
By asking ourselves this question, we take off our “technical/implementation” hat and enable ourselves to think free of predefined constraints. Instead of trying to build a better mousetrap, we start to think, “How do I keep mice out of my house?”
How do we do it?
Versatility is the innovators greatest tool. By continuously learning about new methods and techniques, we can gain new insight into our solutions. Many physicists and engineers enjoy outdoor walks, allowing them to gain a perspective on how nature solved certain problems. This is why many organizations hire contractors to supplement the experience and skills of their existing team. Instead of feeling threatened that the contractors are “treading on our territory,” an innovative employee would take advantage of the situation by getting to understand their perspective. This can lead to surprising ideas, and increased productivity.
Attempt to apply new ideas early and often. By failing early, the innovator learns what is practical and what is not. The innovator will often learn how to prototype things for themselves.
How do we hide it?
Don’t be misguided by the question. I’m a proponent of transparency, as it helps keep an employee/employer honest, and a business on its toes. Another way to state this question might be: “How do we make it look easy?”
Coming from an engineering/science background, I can understand how engineers often want their accomplishments to be visible. Unfortunately, a majority of people will be confused by a complex solution. The engineer can take pride in his work, if they know the work was done well. The engineer should take pride when they see the reaction to their solution.
Take some time to consider what should be visible, and what should not. What is most relevant to the observer? What will be most helpful? To answer these questions, it will likely be helpful to define the “ends” and the “means.” Even if you cannot prevent something that is initially hidden from becoming visible at a later time, sometimes the initial “wow” is the objective.
How do we sell it?
Of the elements that are visible, how will we present them? The execution of an idea can be the most difficult part of innovation. Are you providing a user experience? Even a simple shop tool, like a socket wrench can provide a user experience. Does the tool feel solid as one holds it? Does the switch move cleanly from one direction to the other? Does it turn with a satisfying “click” as you use it? Does the grip feel good on the hand? Is the wrench visually appealing?
It’s not just how a product or service looks, it’s how it works as well. If we do this effectively, any good solution – regardless of its simplicity – will create an experience.
According to Aders, “For innovation to actually occur at any organization you must have a solid intention to innovate. The Innovation Task Force was created to foster this intention to innovate at Slingshot SEO.”
There is much more to innovation than I can fit into one blog post. Hopefully, this preview will give you an idea of how our new Innovation Task Force will approach its issues and challenges, and how you can do the same. How do you currently innovate?