Photo by Mrs. KLF on Flickr

When we create a vision, we often work from the past to the future. We can “see” past and current products or services. We know what customers tell us about value. But, when innovating, we’re also making the future picture up. And, getting clear about the picture is hard work.

Getting really clear is a critical element to successful innovation.

When we’re creating something new, we have (at least) two ways to begin: 1) from the current state or 2) from an imagined future state. In the first case, we pull the current state apart, look at the pieces, and select those we want to carry forward into our future vision. In the second case, we begin with a problem or an opportunity. What is it that we are solving for or inventing into? In either case, the most critical work is in getting really clear about what exactly we are creating.

Remember the Jetsons cartoon? Hanna-Barbara writers gave children a totally new idea of the future.

Getting clear about that potential future requires the inventor to create the film frame-by-frame. She has to envision George Jetson dropping his son Elroy out the bottom of his space craft in a capsule flying into the Little Dipper School. That’s what we have to do when we envision the true next generation of any product, service, or experience. It has to be that clear. And it’s hard work getting each frame right.

Allowing the vision to evolve is a second critical element.

Any creative person or team allows their vision to emerge. But hang on, that would mean we have to let go of some aspect(s), maybe even one that we love. Maybe it’s the dog Astro, so cool. Noooo, not Astro. Sounds a bit cute, but isnt’ that what happens? The team gets enamored by a sexy feature, but ultimately has to drop it from the final vision.

Evolving the vision requires an iterative process of clarifying each frame, feature, or functionality.

So ask yourself, are you really clear about your vision of your future product, service, culture, team process, etc.? Take time this week to break out and be a little “Jetson”; and, at the same time resist the urge to be done. Enjoy the innovation.