Last Updated on 6 March 2009

Take a look at this quote from the book “Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service” by the Disney Institute.

Think for a moment about a magic show. To the audience, the show elicits feelings of wonder and surprise. Most of those watching have no idea how the magician is creating the effects they are witnessing on the stage. Not knowing how an illusion is created and simply enjoying the show are a big part of the fun. The magician’s perspective is completely different. To the magician, a magic show is a highly practical task, a series of repeatable steps designed to create a fixed result and delight the audience.

The same thing happens at Walt Disney World and in all other companies that create magical customer experiences. The happy surprise that a well-served customer feels is a result of hard work on the part of the company and its employees. For the customer, the magic is a source of wonder and enjoyment. For the company and its employees, magic is a much more practical matter.

While the context of practical magic in the Disney book refers specifically to creating great Guest experiences, I propose that the same approach of ‘highly practical tasks broken down into repeatable steps’ can be applied to the topic of INNOVATION.

The practical tasks and repeatable steps companies need to follow to be more innovative are as follows…

Monitor – Stay aware of your environment. Monitor your industry, your competition, and your own company from the outside in… and the inside out… Stay ahead… or at least with… trends.

Anticipate (Needs) – With a constant Monitor process in place, you will now notice the small subtle changes that occur. Instead of being taken off guard by sudden unexpected changes, you’ll detect and be able to react to the small movements that precede change.

Identify (Needs) – Now that you spot a need, issue or opportunity – you need to determine the cause. You don’t want an
aspirin to ease the headache; you want to prevent what’s causing the headache. This step is key. Proper identification of the need will lead to the appropriate solutions. You will come up with and implement
solutions based on the work in this stage.

Generate – Brainstorm. Create alternatives. Edgemark. Whatever method you use you need to generate creative ideas that will fix the cause. At this stage no idea is a bad idea because you’re not making decisions or allocating resources… you are working on discovering all the possible alternatives.

Evaluate – This is the stage where you narrow down the ideas to the fewer, bigger and better ideas that will best solve your challenge. This is where you begin to make decisions… this is where you starting forming your plan…

Champion – You have found “the” solution. Now what? Some companies are so narrow-minded there isn’t room for a big idea to squeeze in – even if it’s the right idea! Much innovation gets blocked because it is not properly shepherded through the organization. A champion who can navigate the organizational channel is needed at this stage. There are other stakeholders to consider as well… Ensure your plan meets or exceeds the expectations of your customers, employees, the brand, the industry, and any other share holders or stake holders.

Implement – Innovation is a creative idea put into action that causes change. Until you implement innovation doesn’t exist.

Monitor – Return to the first step, but now you are also monitoring the program you’ve just implemented. If you’ve followed the steps properly you are now noticing a positive change among your intended audience. If not… you need to repeat the cycle again with the new challenge. The cycle continues.

By following these tasks, you address issues before they become problems. You innovate – put into action a creative idea that provides a proactive approach – and gain the competitive edge.

No, these tasks are not basic exercises accomplished in an afternoon. Nor are they something you do once… or just once in a while… It’s a continuous process requiring proper resources… On the other hand, it’s NOT magic either. They are a “series of repeatable steps designed to create a fixed result and delight the audience.”