Back to Basics: The Innovation Alphabet

Back to Basics: The Innovation Alphabet

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

You know ALL the innovation tools and frameworks:

  • Design Thinking
  • Lean Startup
  • Disruptive Innovation

But knowing and doing are two different things.  When I first learned Jobs to be Done, it felt painfully obvious, exactly like the customer research I did for five years at P&G.  Then I had to do it (conduct a Jobs to be Done interview), and it was difficult (ok, it was a disaster).

And teaching others to do it is a third entirely different thing.  Because by the time you have the skills and expertise to teach others, you’ve forgotten what it was like to start from the beginning.

It’s easy to forget that before you can read a sentence, you must know how to read a word.  Before you can read a word, you must recognize a letter.

So let’s go back to basics.  Back before the methodologies.  Before the frameworks.  Before the theories.  Let’s go back to the letters and words that are Innovation’s essence.

Let’s go back to the Innovation Alphabet.

Assumptions, every innovation has them, and every innovator tests them to reduce risk

Brainstorming, a great way to get lots of ideas and maybe even some new ones

Customers, the people we innovate for

Disruptive Innovation, cheaper, lower quality products that appeal to non-consumers

Experiments, how you test assumptions and reduce risk

Fun, what innovation should be


Hope, it springs eternal in the heart of every innovator

Ideas, where most innovations start

Jobs to be Done, the problems people have/the progress they want to make (and the hill I will die on)


Leadership, the most crucial element in innovation (and often the biggest barrier)

Mistakes, how we learn, grow, and make progress

No, the start of a conversation, not the end

Opportunities, a nice term for “problem”

Problems, where all innovations should start

Quiet, what we sometimes need to think big and create something new



Team, how innovation gets done

Uncomfortable, what innovation should make you (especially if you’re a senior executive)




whY, the one question you can never ask enough

Zzzz, what you finally get to do when you’ve changed the world

As you can see, some letters still need words.  What should they be?

Are there better words for some letters?

Let me know in the comments!

Image credit: Unsplash

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4 thoughts on “Back to Basics: The Innovation Alphabet

  1. Ranjeeta Dhanapalan

    Interesting article…Love to contribute to the missing letters…Let me try 🙂

    G- Go for it when you have the insights and vision. Don’t let naysayers get in the way
    K- Keenly observe what is working well, and what’s not. Focus on the variables.
    R- Research well – There is no need to reinvent the wheel- Just build on what is established already.
    S- Simplicity is the key.
    W- Whiteboard it – use up all the stationery you have, if you need to – but believe in the power of debate, design thinking & discussion to generate great ideas.
    X- X Ray Vision – Look beyond the obvious. See if you are using the right framework to support your journey of transformation.
    Y-Yield to nothing but the best possible idea or solution.
    Z- Zen Mindset – Enjoy being calm, tap into your intuition and be in the moment, so that you have greater clarity for decision making, without unnecessary fear, stress or anxiety.

    1. Robyn Bolton

      These are awesome Ranjeeta! Thanks for contributing
      I love all of these, especially S (if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough – Einstein) and Y

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