4 Steps To Purposeful Innovation

As innovators our purpose is to create innovation with purpose. And this means, quite simply, innovation that solves real people’s real problems. It’s important because without this vital ingredient our innovations are doomed to fail – they are useless.  And it’s important to remind ourselves of this occasionally, as it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by our internal corporate agendas to fill the pipeline, impact the bottom line etc.

Purposeful innovation is about solving the problem as best as you can – and this has the added bonus of making you less vulnerable to the impact of your competitors who may take on the same problem.

So to help us stay on track for purposeful innovation, we follow these 4 easy steps:

4 Steps to Purposeful Innovation

1. Find a real problem to solve

Not one you made up or assumed, but one that has been gleaned from spending meaningful time with your consumers to get to know them properly. Also remember that needs aren’t good enough to ideate against as they oversimplify consumers’ worlds. For example: your consumer might need a healthy lunch but the problem could be they are pushed for time/ get bored with salads/ need to eat on the go/ crave pie and chips. So understanding the problems and barriers to having their needs met will get you to a purposeful ideation territory.

2. Find some people to help you solve the problem you have found

Don’t feel you have to come up with ideas alone. You’re brilliant, but bringing different skill sets and thinking types together will work better. This will mean you’re most likely to land upon an idea that can truly serve its purpose of solving the consumer problem.

3. Find as many different ways to solve the same problem as you can

Literally, as many as your brand could possibly stretch to, from as many angles and with as few assumptions as possible. Don’t have an idea – have lots of ideas and then push, prod and pull them in different directions to see their potential and pitfalls. Ideally, use the end user of your idea to evolve those ideas to get them working perfectly to solve the problem. 

4. Find a way to clearly communicate how your idea solves the problem i.e. its purpose –

If you are solving a problem, your consumer or user wants and needs to know about it, so be clear that exquisitely effective communication is part of the innovation package. Make the communication purposeful. (In fact make every aspect of your innovation purposeful if you can). We so often spend time with consumers and hear:

  • “I didn’t know it did that”
  • “I didn’t get that, from the that image/explanation/name/structural package”
  • “So why are they going on about XYZ?… this is much more interesting”
  • and worse of all: “yeah they go on about XYZ, but I actually buy it for this (other) reason”


Don’t be daunted by the prospect of creating purposeful innovation. It’s quite simply about making the world a better place through small changes that might make life: easier/tastier/cooler/simpler/faster/fun/stronger/funkier/comfier/more beautiful/varied/more personal.

We dare you to be bold and make a difference to your consumers lives in a truly purposeful way.

Published 4th February 2016 by Shelly Greenway @ the Strategy Distillery