Generating Discovery for Innovation

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Just in case you haven’t seen the latest Star Trek movie yet, here is one of its key messages;

“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown– only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood”

Our approach to innovation at ImagineNation™ enables you to generate discovery to see the things that are temporarily hidden, and temporarily not understood.  To enable you to transform them into creative ideas and innovative solutions that people value and cherish. This is because creativity and innovation are the key vehicles for empathizing and knowing how to see and solve your smart, savvy 21st century customers or clients problems.   As the new way of adding value to the quality of people’s lives, and also as an effective way of dealing with, and potentially solving the range of wicked and business problems occurring in our uncertain, volatile, ambiguous and complex business environment and worlds.

What does it mean to Generate Discovery?

Generative Discovery involves being able to listen and inquire from the temporarily hidden or emerging field of the future by;

  • Deepening our attending, observing and discerning capabilities to consciously discover creative ideas that will challenge and disrupt the status quo.
  • Creating cracks, openings and creative thresholds that push the boundaries, challenge assumptions and mental models to unleash boldly creative ideas.
  • Seeing possibilities, and opportunities for innovative solutions to problems that may not have been previously imagined.

Why is Generative Discovery Important?

Most business planning processes tend to be linear or vertical in their attempt to provide behavioral or reactive short term solutions that fill the gap between the current reality and a desired future state. They are often developed by applying the same mental models, and the same thinking processes that generally created the current, often undesirable reality.

Knowing that you can’t solve the problem, with the same thinking, or world views that created it, we need a new set of mental models that allows us to perceive the problem differently. Experimenting with the generative discovery skill-set enables us to juggle multiple theories, models and strategies to plan in an emergent way – which will emerge new, most likely unexpected, creative ideas that can be transformed into innovative solutions.

This enables us to create the bridge between the visible world (what we see) as it meets the invisible world (the source or place from which we perceive it).

How do we Generate Discovery?

Initially adapted from the work of Clayton Christensen from ‘The Innovators DNA’, at ImagineNation™ we evolved our approach to Generating Discovery into a Four-Step Cycle incorporating generative listening, inquiring and debating skills to;

  1. Problem and fact find to discover and find the generative nature of the problem wanting to be solved.
  2. Explore the casual factors to discover the systemic nature of the problem.
  3. Disrupt the current reality, challenge conventional thinking by creating safe intentional collisions.
  4. Elicit truly, previously unknown, creative ideas from the emerging future.

The 4 step Cycle of Generative Discovery


Step One – Elicit a description of the territory;

The first step involves eliciting a description of the territory or in what is called the social field of attention by exploring, understanding and describing the specific (cognitive, emotional, and visceral) territory the problem is in. Knowing that the ‘map is not the territory’ because it is only a picture or a representation of the actual territory, our focus is towards;

  • Problem Finding
  • Fact Finding

Step Two – Identify the causes of the current reality occurring in the territory or in the social field of attention;

To really know the territory we have to immerse ourselves in it to generate a deep understanding of the business problem, to see the forces that are diverging and converging and how current and potential customers or users are impacted by it. So our focus is on;

  • Problem Defining

Step Three – Disrupt the territory;

It’s important now to make the shift from specific and descriptive questions towards generating intentionally disruptive ones to generate safe debate. This is where the temporarily hidden ideas emerge through cracks and openings in the field so the focus is on;

  • Ideas Emerging
  • Ideas Exploring
  • Ideas Colliding

Step Four – Elicit creative ideas;

This step is intended to create conflict, disagreement and dissonance to generate a deeper, provocative and creative debate so the focus is on;

  • Idea Refining
  • Idea Deciding

How is this different to conventional problem solving?

You have probably noticed by now when applying the four-step cycle that we have made a very deep space between what we may have thought the problem to initially be, and in generating an ultimate solution! That at no point have we been focussed toward taking action by identifying options, making choices and by developing solutions as people most often tend to in a transactional relationship or conventional problem-solving situation.

What we have successfully achieved by applying the four-step cycle is;

  • Development of a new set of mental models which allows us to perceive and see the initial problem at its core, as well its whole systems level.
  • A way of juggle multiple perspectives to plan in an emergent way – which ultimately emerges unexpected, often disruptive, creative ideas that ultimately lead to innovative breakthrough solutions.

By intentionally embodying and enacting a generative listening, inquiring and debating skill-set that create the bridge between the visible worlds (what we see and know) as it meets the invisible world (the hidden place from which we now know how to perceive it).