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The Future of Innovation: Where Creativity Meets Data

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle developed one of the most creative fictional characters of all time, a character that inspires remake after remake in movies, television shows, and books. People can’t get enough of Sherlock Holmes. But the reason that Doyle was able to captivate audiences with Holmes is becau

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
4 min read
The Future of Innovation: Where Creativity Meets Data
Data! Data! Data! I can’t make bricks without clay!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle developed one of the most creative fictional characters of all time, a character that inspires remake after remake in movies, television shows, and books. People can’t get enough of Sherlock Holmes. But the reason that Doyle was able to captivate audiences with Holmes is because of his research and data. He knew what he was writing about inside out, backwards, forwards, and upside down. And because of this, he could use the information to weave some of the most intriguing storylines every written.

And this same technique, that worked so well for innovation in fictional writing, is applicable to innovation in every field. When data is combined with creativity something truly great can be developed.

There are three very simple reasons for this:

Increased Authenticity

In past decades, organizations were only able to gain surface knowledge about their customers. And rather than see each customer as an individual, the customer base was viewed as a mass. By infusing the creative process with data, businesses can segment their customer base, allowing them to better understand each customer’s unique emotional needs and desires. This ability, in turn, allows creative teams to develop products and services that are wanted and needed, instead of convincing customers they need a service or product after it’s already been developed.

  1. Dynamic Improvement

When a product or service is developed, it's normally fairly stagnant. There are very few alterations made to it. It’s sold as what it is, and there are often no intentions to change it. Data turns this idea on its head.

Just as software developers release monthly and weekly updates for apps and programs in response to customer feedback and data, data can also improve other products. It allows services and products to continue to grow, change, and be optimized in a dynamic and innovative way. As this happens, the customer feels that they are part of the evolution of the product. Their needs and desires have been implemented; they are part of the product’s story.

  1. Enhanced Interconnectedness

When data is collected about customers and their interactions with a brand’s services or products, it opens up new avenues for innovation. That brand is then able to fully understand how, why, where, and when their products are most and least useful. They can then take this information and develop new products and services that fill in the gaps left by other products. Slowly but surely, brands will be able to fit themselves perfectly into their customers’ lives and become completely indispensable as they serve them better and better.

But just because there are very obvious benefits doesn’t mean it’s easy. All too often, those who are involved in data and analytics are not involved in the creative aspects of a business. The opposite also holds true. This needs to change, and for companies that are heavily data driven, there are a few key methods to infusing data with the kind of creativity that leads to innovation.

Increase Collaboration

As previously stated, usually the data people are on one team and the creatives are on another team. They’re siloed. The data generally gets collected, analyzed, and then sent over to sales and marketing. But what if a new data pathway was opened up?

What if the data team and the creative team shared their ideas? The creative team would have a much better understanding of how and where their business could innovate if they could get a deeper look into customer decisions and actions. When businesses integrate these two teams and encourage them to collaborate more and more, they’ll see that fewer ideas fall flat and more ideas excite and intrigue consumers.

  1. Experiment With Problem-Solving

The beauty of collecting and analyzing data, and then implementing it into the ideation and creation of new products, is that product developers begin to understand the consumers' problems, issues, concerns, worries, and stresses. This is ideal.

Innovation is solving problems, and the reason it often doesn’t happen is because companies don’t see what the problem is in the first place. If the problem is understood, however, it can be solved. After the data has been used to identify the problem, organizations can experiment with various solutions until they find the most innovative one.

  1. Work On Empathy

It’s not just about using data to be more creative and innovative; it’s also about infusing that creativity into the data gathering process. Companies should look beyond the usual demographics that they gather from customers. They should attempt to find the hidden and weird and random data. It’s these minuscule details that can make all the difference in a product either revolutionizing an industry or failing miserably. It’s knowing how many apples your customers eat in a year or how many times they press snooze on their morning alarm.

This kind of understanding creates empathy. It allows businesses to really know their consumers so they can then provide exactly the right product at exactly the right time.

The utilization of big data is the future. The companies that are embracing this are the ones that are thriving and creating truly game-changing innovations. In fact, 65 percent of the top innovators are either using social networks or big data to mine for ideas. Apple, Tesla, Netflix, Google, and more all know that it’s their consumers, unwittingly through their data, who will give them the next earth-shattering innovation. And because they know this and indulge it, they consistently stay at the top of their industries.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Innovation is tough. Figuring out that perfectly balanced mixture of data and creativity is challenging. For guidance on the next steps towards innovative success in your organization, check out how my and my team can help.

BlogCulturecreativitydatafuture of innovationInnovationinnovation economyinnovation managementpersonal creativity

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Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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