Using Mastery to Innovate

What do you get when you put a packaging designer, a mixologist, and an auto body repair person in a room and ask them to create a better cracker*? What’s coming next is not a good punchline. As long as you challenge them to answer a consumer need uncovered by thoughtful research, it’s a great way to make innovation happen!

One strategy for a successful co-creation session is bringing together a diverse group of participants and leveraging their untapped mastery. Whether they are client-side or from our pool of creative consumers, every participant brings some form of personal or professional mastery to our sessions. By using our familiarity and proficiency in multiple unrelated fields, we can make connections across categories and create truly new ideas.

Mastery = Details

Mastery is all about knowing the ins and outs of a subject. This is invaluable when searching for breakthrough ideas. Some small detail about the way a manufacturing process works might connect with another detail about fly fishing gear to create a promising and ownable idea for home pest control products**. Anyone can look up facts about fly fishing on the internet or read Manufacturing for Dummies. But masters are the keepers of the deepest details, and new ideas must have compelling and memorable details to succeed.

Mastery = Perseverance

Masters have special skills that beginners don’t and have spent countless hours perfecting their skill through trial and error. They’ve worked through the obvious goals and hurdles and then pushed themselves to conquer problems that once seemed insurmountable. This makes them invaluable when it comes time to evaluate and develop the most promising ideas. Skilled masters are the ones who ask, “How can we?” instead of pronouncing that it can’t be done. They persevere. Skilled masters are the sherpas of innovation:  they’ve been to the summit and they’re not afraid to do the hard work to help you get there too.

Mastery = Joy

Mastery can also have a dark side. Mastery implies command. It is synonymous with superiority, supremacy, and sovereignty. This is why at our co-creation sessions we ask that participants set aside titles and criticism for the day. What drives new ideas is the joy of sharing and exploring. Have you ever talked to someone about their passion and watched the smile spread across their face as they share some new discovery or achievement? In the innovation space, that infectious excitement not only fuels new creativity, but helps develop internal support for unproven ideas and creates a shared vision for growth.

Mastery = You!

You may not think of yourself as a master, and I can’t tell you how many times people have told me they just “aren’t creative.”  But I have yet to meet someone in a session who doesn’t have mastery in some area. I’ve seen great ideas come from participants who were masters at things like making their own sausages, refinishing furniture, and role-playing games**.  It’s imperative that we uncover and use these assets to create new solutions to consumer problems.

*Not based on a real example but the real examples are just as non-sequitus.

**Based on real examples.