Good innovators do not focus on good ideas: they focus on the testable ones

In this inspired article, Michael Schrage highlights a crucial aspect of innovation which is often overlooked: the necessity for a practical edge. 


If you tested as a Learner, Futuristic or Strategic person in Strengthsfinder 2.0 – if you have not done this test, it comes in really handy at all stages of your personal and professional development -, chances are that you have an insatiable appetite for new stuff. Welcome to the club. It is a great club. It is also a very dangerous one. 

 Why? Because we tend to leave it at that. We are these excited, optimistic individuals who are going around our offices with the latest cool link. We are thirsty for new. And don’t get me wrong, new is great. However, new is not enough. 


Ultimately, good innovators are those who can see further than the good idea, and transform it, to use Michael’s vocabulary, into a testable hypothesis.

 Interestingly, this is simply a reinterpretation of the scientific method, which at its score is composed of: 

1. Observation of a phenomenon 

2. Definition of a problem/question/need 

3. Formulation of an hypothesis 

4. Test of the hypothesis: if conclusive, move to next phase, if not, go back to the previous one 

5. Design of a theory 


How do we adapt this in marketing? Glad you asked. Let’s say you work in the product innovation side at Amazon: 

1. People are using apps to shop more and more, but where Amazon was once alone in offering a good online shopping experience, brick-and-mortar supermarkets have caught up with very efficient ones. Also, they have the edge of being top of mind for lots of stuff with their physical presence. 

 2. Amazon needs to bridge that gap by creating a new edge to its online shopping experience, whilst finding a way to be more present in its shoppers’ home 

3. Amazon could create its own digital ecosystem, which would allow for increased awareness, a.k.a. the Google Android strategy 

3. bis. Amazon could create its own devices for a better control of the shopping experience, a.k.a. the Google Nexus strategy 

4. Test of different products derived of these two hypotheses: Amazon Kindle, Amazon Dash, Amazon Fire Phone & Tablet… etc. 

 5. Analyse the results and decide on what works, do more of that 

 There are many other ways of course, and most of the time we just use this reasoning without a second-thought. Yet, for product development and innovation, it is great to have it consciously in mind. Indeed, it allows for a more action-oriented mindset, and helps structure a project.