Generating Discovery for Innovation

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

“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 these 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.

This is the new way of business problem solving that adds value to the quality of people’s lives. It is  also 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 for innovation?

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 possibilities to 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 and problem solving processes tend to be linear or vertical in their attempt to provide behavioral or reactive short term solutions. The intent is to fill the gap between the current reality and a desired future state. These are often developed by applying the same mental models, and often 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 solve business problems in four steps;

  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
4 step cycle Picture1
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

This requires us to deep listening to reveal ‘what is’ or ‘what is really going on’ in the system and to build empathy with how it feels to be in that kind of territory.
We do this by asking intentional – ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ questions.

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

This is so that we can understand the deeper generative or systemic nature of the business problem by asking causal questions that help us get to the core of the business problem.
So we ask causal questions, continuing asking intentional – ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘where’ questions’ and making sure not to progress towards seeking any type of action or solution.

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

This is to create collisions between people’s internal programming, perspectives and thought patterns. To initiate the mindset shifts, create ‘cracks’ thresholds and openings that elicit and unleash possibilities.

When doing this, we have to ensure that we mitigate against resistance by creating a safe holding space that results in an intimate, empathic and compassionate relationship. Doing this effectively enables us to unconsciously create an assertive, candid and constructive generative debate that ultimately results in a ‘right hand turn’ or an inflection point for breakthrough and creative ideas.

So we ask intentionally disruptive questions by asking deeper ‘what’ and more ‘why’ and ‘why not’ questions

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

This enables us to draw on the potentiality of the interaction and to elicit the range of unexpected possibilities awaiting us in the emergent space.  The focus is on asking safe and intentionally disruptive questions – ‘what if’ and ‘how might we’ questions.

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 generating discovery for innovation by embodying and enacting a generative listening, inquiring and debating skill-set creates 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). This generates fresh ways of sensing, perceiving and addressing business problem solving.

At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation coaching, education and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviours and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.

Contact us now at to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.