Employee-Led Innovation (5) – Innovation Digging for Fresh Ideas

Innovation Digging was developed by Tamer Kemeröz and Benno van Aerssen. As the name suggests, it is a systematic 'excavation' of ideas that can help you to innovate both radically and continuously. Very few people can come up with new ideas on the spot, because idea generation is a process. This process can still be controlled in a systematic way, Innovation Digging can help bring order to creative chaos. The method helps teams to put their creative ideas on paper in a goal-oriented manner - and then implement them. In fact, you're not actually developing ideas themselves with Innovation Digging, but just look for search fields that serve as inspiration. Based on these search fields, ideas can be developed. So Innovation Digging is the kind of the preliminary stage to the idea generation phase.

Required Materials

Innovation Digging has pretty low entry barriers, because you can start right away. You only need a few materials to start digging:

  • Pens
  • Flipchart or large paper (landscape)
  • sticky notes
  • (optional) Sticker

The Innovation Digging Process

Step 1

Define your search field by phrasing it as a question – what challenge or problem do you want to overcome? Write this question down, e.g. “How can we optimize our project management?”

It’s important that your question is as concise as possible to avoid any misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

Step 2

Now break your search field down into smaller sub-fields. Use another question to identify them: “Which aspects of project management are particular important to complete the project successfully?”

Write down all these so-called touchpoints and create a list of words (dimensions) that you associate with the individual touchpoints. Write everything down that comes to your mind – the more the better. There’s no right or wrong here, the words can be completely irrelevant (at first sight) or completely outlandish. That’s exactly the objective of Innovation Digging: Working through the seemingly unimportant ideas to discover a diamond between all the pebbles.  

Step 3

Now create a matrix based on the table you’ve created in step 2.

Write down all the touchpoints on the horizontal axis. These are the points your customers or employees come in touch with your product or service. In our example these touchpoints are for example:

Now add the dimensions into the vertical axis. Remember: The crazier the dimensions are, the better. Because those dimensions can turn out to be real gold mines and only with those outlandish dimensions will you be able to come up with unconventional and revolutionary ideas. Here are a few possible dimensions for our example:

  • Faster
  • More accurate
  • More excentric
  • Funnier
  • More magical
  • More playful
  • Etc.

A search field matrix can look like this

Step 4

The last step is to go through all the possible combinations between touchpoints and dimensions. Here  are a few possible combinations: „more magical time management”, “funnier resource management” or “more playful task management”. Ideas based on the last combination “more playful task management” could be: “When you mark 5 tasks as completed consecutively, a comic dog doing a victory dance will appear” or “You get a star for every completed task. You get a coupon for a free coffee for every 50 stars collected.” (Keyword: Gamification). Let the search fields inspire you and don’t be afraid of throwing in super outlandish ideas.

Typical Applications

Innovation Digging can be used in all areas and fields. The two inventors of the method have identified several areas of application where innovation digging is used particularly frequently, e.g. in order to

  • develop new products/services
  • further develop/improve existing products/services
  • identify new markets, business fields or target groups
 
 

Read more from the Employee-Led Innovation series:

  1. Advantages of In-House Idea Development
  2. Innovation Labs and Open Innovation
  3. Promote Creativity Using These Techniques
  4. IdeaSedCard and Pitching Contest