Innovation Intent 1.0

As we wrote this book in early 2007, winter CES and the iPhone were fresh on everybody’s minds. We know—the world has changed dramatically since then, though we still think this specific iPhone story is a great example (even if it is overused today) of establishing an intent with distinctive value. We’ll be thinking about how to adjust the description based on what we know now about the trajectory of the iPhone–and indeed, the entire smartphone industry.

However we set up the introduction of the “Innovation Intent” framework, we think it’s a great place to start: articulating the problem as we understand it, and setting up the conversations and questions we’ll explore as the project takes shape. Sometimes we find that colleagues and collaborators find it challenging to have this conversation from scratch, so let us know if it would help to explain the mindset. By the way, did the teamwork issues raised come as a surprise? There’s a lot to be said about how to convene, organize, and inspire an innovation team—easily enough for a separate book. For now, we needed to get across some core elements of collaboration, since you’ll really need multiple points of view to come up with an effective Innovation Intent.

What seems to be working

  • We’ve tried to think about all the issues that an innovation team needs to keep in mind when they are just starting. Early framing of the question, setting intent, and making sure the team is starting out by working effectively together—all important, all at once.
  • The “Innovation Intent” outline used here still matches pretty well with what we use in our professional practice. Anything you’d add or adjust to make it stronger?

Areas that need work or feedback

  • Do we give you enough clarity about how to start having the Innovation Intent conversation? Do you think these are the right questions for “Day 1″ of an innovation effort–or can you think of other ones that should be on the table from the start?
  • Is the discussion about teamwork too much of a tangent—or just enough to get you going on a collaborative discussion of “Intent”? Does the sidebar on “Effective innovation teamwork” belong here, or later in the book?
  • For most chapters of the book, we suggest resources for further reading. Can you suggest any for Chapter 3?
After you’ve read the chapter, please post your thoughts, constructive critique, and suggestions below. Thank you! We’ll be releasing more chapters soon.
  • Johann Dudley

    Hi Zach,

    First of all I want to commend you and David on what you are
    doing here on two fronts: (1) democratizing the knowledge imparted in these chapters; and (2) having the courage to seek critical feedback from those around you in industry. Nicely done gentlemen!

    In reference to Chapter 3 and the Innovation Intent, I wanted to share with you a slightly different process that Nielsen has recently
    started to employ in its own Innovation Lab. This is a brand new approach (to Nielsen) that Nielsen is taking to create new sustained and disruptive innovation in the marketplace. It employs a modified approach from the Standford Graduate School of business and is internally called the 3i process. Nielsen co-created this with GSB professors leveraging Design Thinking at it’s core.

    3i stands for Identify, Ideate and Iterate. It’s a mechanism that we use within a 90 year old company to get corporate employees to serve as intrepreneurs in their day to day jobs. There are 5 main goals of
    the 3i rollout at Nielsen.

    1) Develop a structured process to spur creative problem solving.
    2) Further empathize with clients to understand latent needs.
    3) Generate many ideas to address needs.
    4) Gather feedback quickly with prototypes to refine solutions in an iterative environment.
    5) Learn through experience and energize internal teams in the process.

    In sharing this I’m hoping that you would consider a practical Innovation model that we use today in a large corporation and
    determine how best to incorporate it into your model as you see fit. We have been using it for just over a year now. Here are a few helpful links that describe the origins of the 3i process:



    • Zachary Jean Paradis

      Johann – Thanks for the feedback. Of course we’ll consider all feedback, especially from smart folks like those at Nielsen and Stanford. Naked Innovation actually espouses what you outline: Identify, Ideate and Iterate but organizes those concepts slightly differently. Take a look at the Introduction which gives an overview of how the book is organized. Dave actually has a great video explaining it:

      Also, regarding this chapter on Intent 1.0, the point of the chapter itself is to force a team to develop a hypothesis (Identify) which then enables a team to explore across People (empathize with clients, or people, to understand latent needs), Technology and Business and reframe (Identify refined). That then moves into structured methods of concept generation, various forms of iteration (through Prototyping and other means), ultimately landing at full on Implementation.

      It would be great for you to stick with us for more chapters to continue to give feedback. It would also be great for you to pass on to the Nielsen Innovation Lab. It seems our approaches are well aligned, so I imagine they will get something out of it.


  • Douglas Wills

    Hi Zach and David,

    Intent is one of the hardest parts of innovation. It can easily be glossed over by teams…and as time goes on…teams may become misaligned with their stakeholders regarding intent 1.0 thereby throwing off the entire direction a project.

    Question: Is the assumption for the book, that the innovation intent 1.0 is the result a of articulating a root cause of a problem? Could the team looking for white space opportunity? Or could it be all of the above or other.

    The structure for the Innovation Intent 1.0 is great. However, teams may want help getting there.

    My thinking is that the aspiration and strategy of a business should have a big impact on where teams focus their innovation energy. After the strategy and aspirations are clear, teams might broadly take into account the company’s core competences, the confluence of relevant trends, their company’s competitive landscape, customer insights (broadly articulated) and industry orthodoxies. Taking these into account will give boundaries to help the team develop a hypothesis that is the core of the Innovation Intent 1.0.

    Overall: Here is a thought…how abut downloadable tools (wall charts) for each chapter. Then teams can download these tools to help foster meaningful and productive conversations (in a workshop setting or through team conversations). You could even gather feedback from teams who use NakedInnovation tools and iterate better versions.

    • Knowl Baek

      Hi Douglas,
      Thanks for your feedback and I cannot agree with you more on the importance of setting the innovation intent and the impact it has on the entire project.
      To your question, I think the innovation intent could come from studying a existing problem, exploring completely new opportunities and/or even from reframing a problem you’ve been working on in a new direction.
      It’s a great point that many people are trying to do this already and the burning question might be more about ‘how do we get there?’ I love your idea of involving the team to co-create the intent, so that through such exchange, they can consider and align the intent with the aspiration and strategy of the company. And a downloadable tool such as wall chart could definitely facilitate this conversation, make it more sharable and spark ideas.
      If you have any examples or experiences you could share about such challenges or success stories around the topic, we’d love to hear more about them!

      • Douglas Wills

        Hi Knowl,
        When ever I start an innovation project I usually take teams through a framing session. It is best to have the stakeholders present at that session. It’s hard to share a tool, but suffice to say that at the session we would define the opportunity, vision of success, scope, givens, participants and rough out a working plan. During that time the innovation team starts to understands their creative boundaries and align with stakeholders.

        Of course, the team must to document the framing session and review it with their stakeholders for clarification in order to keep people from drifting to far from the relevant conversations during the framing session. Now, I know how much effort the team can afford to devote to finalizing the Innovation Intent 1.0.

        Depending on resources, the opportunity definition from the framing session might serve as the Innovation Intent 1.0. Most likely we will expand from there and consider other boundaries such as core competences, the confluence of trends, orthodoxies, etc. I do not mean full on discovery, but just some intelligent thinking to inform the Innovation Intent 1.0 that will serve as a good starting point to the project and align with stakeholders.

        The whole idea being that sensing intent will be more effective and lead to a better Innovation Intent 2.0.

        So, maybe for this chapter their is framing tool that leads into the Innovation Intent 1.0 document…hope that helps.

        • Knowl Baek

          Thanks for further explanation about your process and that’s a good point to be mindful on how much resource you could/choose to allocate on defining intent 1.0. It’s surely a departure point and informed hypothesis that will lead to a more in depth discovery or iterations.

    • Zachary Jean Paradis

      We were thinking in some similar ways–downloadable tools and such–so it’s great to see this feedback. The balance of course comes where you don’t want to spend too much time researching for an Intent 1.0 if you’re going to reframe anyway.

      Perhaps we could assume (rightly in big organization or maybe wrongly in small ones) that ongoing work is constantly happening to understand context and there is always a list of potential Intent 1.0′s. That way, it would be relatively easy to put it together with a little co-creative process and framework?

      • Douglas Wills

        Exactly…nothing too onerous.

  • Peter Rivera-Pierola

    I would like to echo some of the discussion regarding the innovation intent—especially its use as a viable tool for alignment. I frequently use this framework in the planning stages of projects I’m leading, regardless of scope, to align with my typically diverse set of stakeholder groups. No other tool has been as effective at helping me describe the holistic nature of an opportunity to my sponsors and colleagues. It’s even better as a collaborative tool; helping to reach alignment while serving in a partnering or supporting role.

    Given all this, I wonder if it’s valuable to stress that not only is this tool valuable at describing one’s early hypothesis or gut framing, but also equally proficient at framing more defined topics to an extended team. I’ve introduced this framework to colleagues whom were impressed by the depth of information covered in its seemingly simple format. This inherent approachability and efficiency make it a must for just about any project, and an obvious first step before any further resources are spent.

    As you describe in later chapters, the Intent 2.0 happens after some time spent learning more about the business, people, and technology drivers affecting the opportunity. However, sometimes companies don’t take the time to revisit past assumptions, and simply move on to new directions and initiatives. Even if early framing misses the mark or worse, is proven wrong, many people typically don’t take the time to hone their Intent, instead choosing to “start from scratch” or “never look back” depending on the project context. Frankly, the discipline needed to revisit one’s initial framing is often cast aside in favor of momentum, politics, time, or other resource-driven factor. I mention this not to dissuade teams from creating an Intent 2.0, but rather as an example of why it’s typically and woefully overlooked.

    Perhaps the framework should include an emphasis on the alignment process—recommendations on how and when to best sculpt, share, and revisit an intent statement—in an effort to create the foundation for further innovation. For many teams, this will be the first and last chance to frame their projects and set the tone in rapidly passing quarters. I know much of that ideal meta process is outlined throughout the book, but I think it’s worth considering how to make the innovation intent process as descriptive and effective as possible.

    Thanks for the great resource,

    • Zachary Jean Paradis

      Great feedback! We’re happy it has been of use to you, and happier to hear your suggested additions.

      It makes a TON of sense to introduce a sidebar or a piece not he alignment process. We talk about teamwork a bit, but could expand it.

      Do you have a particular example for how to make the process “as descriptive and effective as possible”? Would love to know what you are thinking.

      • Peter Rivera-Pierola

        I was thinking a more prescriptive timeline or sequence of events when developing and sharing the innovation intent. For example, you could provide different scenarios where this intent could be used, and the steps leading up to its refinement. If used within an internal team, be sure to A, B, and C. If aligning with leadership, then X, Y, and Z. The objective being to show the importance of crafting the innovation intent as an alignment tool for varying audiences and project scopes.