Eyes on Innovation

A novel method for turning data into decisions.

You’re surrounded with data. Right? It’s everywhere. It’s all anyone talks about. What’s all of that information doing for you, really? You’re not a data scientist or a developer with data mining skills. You’re running your business as best you can.

“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine?”

~ Jim Barksdale, Entrepreneur

Here is a simple recipe that redefines your relationship with the data in your business, so it can work for you, not the other way around.

In all of my recipes, I find a way to visualize the problem, it’s parts, and let that guide me towards the desired outcome. Eyes on Innovation does that - there are five steps and they’re easy to remember because they all start with I.



How are you collecting information?

Information is all around us. The first thing you need to do is understand what data could be relevant to your business. Is it tied to how your products are used? Could it be related to site traffic, marketing, calls to action? Once you understand what data is potentially useful you can move to step two.


Much of the data may be hard to make sense of.

Have you ever actually inspected the data your business produces? Is it structured? Like survey information? Or unstructured, like client conversations? Thinking about how your data is stored helps make it useful. Considering this at the beginning of a project, then planning for it, helps determine how to best present the information for use in Step Three.


Making sense of it all and finding the deeper meaning of the information.

This is where humans enter the equation. As much as we’d like an AI or expert system to make sense of the data, they only take us so far. Our cognitive abilities, coupled with a deep understanding of our business, clients and future plans, enable us to see patterns and connect concepts quickly. Working with your team, you’re able to make connections you’d not seen before. This leads perfectly to Step Four.


The information stimulates you to think of infinite possibilities.

By this time in the process you’re popping with ideas. When you let the information guide you, it’s hard to ignore some of the more obvious choices. Make sure you don’t jump to this step too soon. This is called Dive in and Discover in my See What You Think recipe. Generating ideas, then Clustering the Chaos is exactly what you need to do before you move to Step Five.


Now it all comes together.

The final step in this recipe is selecting the ideas that are most likely to make a difference in your business and implement them. You either create an initiative or take initiative. In each case, you’ll be doing something you’d not have considered without analyzing the information that was at your fingertips the whole time.

Case Study:

The National Science Teachers Association


The NSTA was a client of introNetworks, serving a population of thousands of teachers in the United States. Our network connected the teachers based on their particular professional areas of interest, what they were able to share with other teachers, and where they needed help. After ninety days I met with them to go over the data we’d collected.

We looked at the word clouds, charts and graphs and I asked them, “What’s popping off the screen and nearly impossible to ignore?”  This was a bit of a trick question. The largest word displayed in the area where the teachers needed help was, Grant Writing. This came as new input to the management team. What did this have to do with science or teaching? Turns out, using the Insight step, we figured out teachers had been getting their budgets slashed and were having to find novel ways to fund classroom purchases. One of those was writing grants. This is not something taught in college, at least not for science teachers. They needed help.

Continuing to look at the information, we learned there was a percentage of teachers who said they had a skill in grant writing and were willing to share it with others. I asked the team, “What could we do, now that we know we have a need and a source of information for the teachers?” In hindsight, this seems obvious, at the time, less so. Looking at data from the point of view of how you could use it to better serve your audience was a new concept.

At this point, the team asked to stop the meeting while they went and got people from Marketing, the Product team, the Event Planners and the Development group. What followed was an idea session that led to a new set of initiatives including Panels, Classes, White Papers, Workshops for the annual event.

This experience was the first time I’d been able to put all the pieces of this recipe together myself. I discovered it’s not enough to have the data, you need to uncover insight, generate ideas and finally, do something - take the action to generate new products, services and goodwill for your audiences.


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