Defining Problems Within The Innovation Process With Matt Mueller

We’re persevering with our collection of interviews with innovation consultants. This time we’re interviewing Matt Mueller concerning the significance of downside definition. Why can we fail to outline them and why ought to we decelerate within the innovation course of?

Matt is an innovation guide, columnist, speaker, and writer with over a decade of expertise in executing technique and facilitating change for a number of the world’s largest client packaged items manufacturers and retail shops.


Could You Inform Our Listeners Extra About Your Self And Your Background?

Matt: Even earlier than I had an expert journey, I’ve at all times been fascinated by how leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., JFK, Mother Teresa create change. What made them totally different than the opposite 8 billion folks on the earth, what made them create change? There are so few leaders like them on the market. That was my base as a toddler.

So, once I bought my first job working in a deli behind the counter serving to prospects, I shortly bought to administration, and I instantly tried to determine how I can create change at work. I’d do experiments with my crew to try to create a greater client expertise. What if I had been to incentivize my workers, what if I had been to supply steering and construction for them, what if we’d have enjoyable, what if I’d mentor them? I’d check out all these various things on a month-to-month foundation to create the very best client expertise that I presumably may. How can I drive change?

From there I moved on from retail to the company aspect of the enterprise and I labored on retail assist. There I attempted to create change by wanting on the form of knowledge insights I may present to my leaders to indicate the path we wanted to go and the rationale to alter. This then led me proper into a job inside innovation, making a change with innovation, innovating in product and innovating within the retail expertise, and innovating in operations. So, that is what introduced me to the place I’m at the moment, sharing my expertise from innovation with the world.

This Yr, 2023 Began On A Constructive Word For You. You’ve Revealed A E Book “The Mindful Innovator. Learn How To Slow Down, To Move Faster And More Purposefully”. What Impressed You To Put In Writing This E Book?

Matt: Well, it is a e book that I want I learn a decade in the past once I began in innovation.

When I first went to the company aspect of the enterprise, I’d go in early each single morning and do my knowledge insights. I’d like to go in at 6:00 AM simply because it was good and quiet. This one Friday I am going in at 6:00 o’clock within the morning, get my scorching espresso, sit at my desk, fireplace up my pc, and my cellphone rang, which was unusual. My cellphone does not often ring at 6:15 within the morning. I decide it up and it is one of many executives of our firm saying, hey Matt, I need to speak to you, are you able to come up and have a dialog?

I wasn’t positive if I ought to pack my private belongings, however I went as much as the chief suite, I press the button within the elevator, my palms are sweating and I’m pondering, what is going on on proper now? Why are we having this dialog? I am going into his workplace, and he says, Matt, we’re seeking to create an innovation crew, and we predict that you’d be one of many folks that may assist us begin this crew, we need to determine how can we innovate as an organization.

I used to be stunned, why me? At the time, it did not make sense. I’ve no MBA, I haven’t got classical coaching in innovation. So, how does that make any sense? I used to be very overwhelmed and apprehensive. But that is innovation, so, in fact, I stated sure, I’ll do it. Who would say no to an innovation job? It simply sounded so neat.

I took the place, and I went residence and advised my household about it. I used to be so excited. I’d dream about what I’ll be doing in innovation: constructing robots, including lasers to the expertise, and AI and VR and each different acronym I may consider. It was all about tech. I used to be studying totally different books about philosophies and processes that we are able to use, like design pondering and stage gate. I used to be utilizing all these various things in my each day observe, and I’d really feel like they’re good, however that we do not actually get too far with them. Nothing was actually taking off for us early on.

And that is once I realized that we had been, wanting up at innovation. What I imply by that, is that we take into consideration innovation as rocket science. It’s pretentious. It’s very laborious to do. Not everybody can do it, solely a few us can. It has that feeling to it. When I noticed that we have to begin wanting down on innovation.

Innovation is silly. It’s, tremendous simple to do. And we simply should have that mindset that anybody can innovate. And you recognize what? It’s true. Anyone can. If we simply give it some thought just a little bit easier. Don’t fear about including excessive tech to each single factor that you simply’re doing; it isn’t what innovation is about. And that is the e book I want I had once I first began and why I wrote it.


Innovation is silly. It’s tremendous simple to do.


Mindfulness, Which Is On The Core Of Your E Book, Is A Phrase That I Personally Don’t Encounter Typically Once I Examine Innovation.

Matt: That’s why I wrote the e book. I couldn’t discover something about mindfulness.

Thinking about innovation and why you do not hear about it’s due to the tradition. Look on the mantras that we have now – innovate or die, fail quick, disrupt, or be disrupted. It units a fast-paced tradition. Things have to get carried out now and instantly.

If we consider COVID-19 and the way the business reacted, it solely exacerbated the scenario that we have now with this innovation tradition, that we have to do proper now.

At the time, I used to be engaged on innovation, making an attempt to create the very best retail expertise doable for our shoppers. When COVID hit, all the things modified, and like all people else, we pivoted. We needed to do one thing else, and it was all about making a secure expertise in retail and that is honest.

In week one, we’re pondering to wash/disinfect all of the totally different packing containers and merchandise which are coming into the shop due to the protection measures. Per week later we study that it wasn’t vital.

We pivoted once more pondering that we want UV lights, to get all of the floor areas clear. We realized that that is probably not that vital both. Let’s pivot once more, and once more after which once more. Well, while you carry on pivoting again and again, what’s occurring? You’re moving into a circle. You’re going nowhere quick, and it is simply very dizzying.

I had the identical expertise with the dizzying impact once I bought my first smartphone. I used to be simply enthralled with it; I’d be on all of it day lengthy. I’d be textual content messaging, making cellphone calls, sending emails, utilizing social media, checking notifications – consuming each piece of content material I may on the Internet.

It was all the things to me. And I could not wait until my cellphone buzzed once more to get that subsequent dopamine hit. It was dizzying and I, like a number of different folks, used mindfulness to get out of that world and be capable of turn out to be current, again into the second of on a regular basis life and never have to fret about our cellphone a lot.

So, the thought was, after we take into consideration innovation, if I get that very same dizzying impact as I used to be with my smartphone why not use mindfulness for innovation? It makes whole sense.

Quite Typically Innovators Get Trapped Within The Cycle Of Doing For The Sake Of Doing, They Lose The Aim. Why Do You Suppose This Occurs? Why We’re Not Capable Of See The Issue?

Matt: I imply, innovation is cool, proper? It’s only a actually cool subject and it calls for our consideration. It calls for shoppers’ consideration as a result of folks need innovation of their lives. It calls for the eye of traders. And it additionally will get demand from folks inside an organization as a result of it gives them hope that issues are going to get higher.

So, innovation is simply an incredible phrase that will get folks’s consideration. Brands know this so, they should leverage the phrase innovation and that basically waters down the entire business.


Innovation is simply an incredible phrase that will get folks’s consideration. And manufacturers know this. And so, they should leverage the phrase innovation and that basically waters down the entire business.


Think about Apple. They have a gathering every year, a conference the place they discuss their latest, newest, and best merchandise. That occasion often prices them $50 million.

In 2019, they launched their Apple Seven Series Watch. This was the massive announcement of that yr, and other people stopped of their tracks and watched it in the course of the day. People simply stopped and – I’m not going to work anymore. I bought to observe this video. Hold on. I bought to see what they’ll be saying.

The large innovation of the watch was that the display screen grew 5 millimeters in measurement, and it had a beveled edge. Is that basically innovation? They spent $10 million per millimeter to announce that they elevated the dimensions of the watch. That does not make sense to me. That’s not innovation, that is an incremental change to a product, however it has minimal affect, and it doesn’t resolve a client downside. It’s not impacting anyone’s life.

That’s the place innovation falls into the lure the place of “innovating” simply to generate extra income for the next yr. It’s now not about innovating, it is about income and advertising and marketing. That’s the place innovation loses objective.

How Do You Get Unstuck From These Traps?

Matt: I imply, everybody falls into these traps, all people. I’ve by no means seen it not occur.

One of the traps that I fell into was early on in my innovation profession. I’d go to conferences everywhere in the nation within the US to study new issues, community with folks, see new processes, new merchandise, and different fascinating issues.

I went to an occasion in New York City, for retail shows. I noticed a number of cool issues like augmented actuality, VR, three-dimensional indicators, and automatic replenishing shows.

I noticed this one show that basically caught my eye. It was a three-dimensional signal that seemed identical to a flat signal and swiftly, it began shifting in one other path as I used to be shifting. It was like these baseball playing cards which have a hologram inside.

It wasn’t solely three-dimensional, however it additionally had an animation piece to it. Imagine if it was a BBQ, you’ll truly see the smoke rising from the grill. I discovered this actually fascinating, and I believed that this would possibly assist me resolve an issue that I’m dealing with at work – making an attempt to get folks to have a look at my indicators and shops. So, possibly this can create consideration. Let’s do it. Let’s begin engaged on this mission.

I spent fairly just a few months engaged on this, growing the expertise with the seller. We put it into shops, it was superior wanting, identical to seeing the product three-dimensional with animation.

We began testing it out and we realized actually shortly that customers did not take a look at it. The cause why? It’s nonetheless an indication. They do not care. They do not need to take a look at an indication. So, what I used to be making an attempt to do is to resolve my very own downside. I used to be making an attempt to resolve the issue of “I need consumers to look at my sign”. I wasn’t it from the point of view of my client, that they want a cause to have a look at my signal. What objective can that signal present for them? What downside can that signal resolve for the client to make them take a look at it?

I used to be utterly trapped in the identical actual factor I discussed when speaking about Apple. Like everybody else – we take a look at our personal issues and suppose that that is what we have to resolve.

No, we have now to have a look at it from the buyer’s viewpoint and take a look at issues in that path. Going to these reveals often causes these forms of traps of OK, how do I deploy this resolution into an issue that is a drive match, and it does not actually exist?

We take a look at our personal issues and suppose that that is what we have to resolve. No, we have now to have a look at it from the buyer’s viewpoint and take a look at issues in that path.

Weeks In The Past, After We Spoke For The Primary Time, You Talked About The Story Of The Thirsty Dog. How Does This Relate To The Subject Of Discovering And Defining Issues?

Matt: Thirsty Dog was an organization created within the late 90s by a Florida man, Marc Duke. He created this firm as a result of he noticed an enormous downside that he confronted: he didn’t like to present his beagle faucet water. The cause was that faucet water has chlorine, and different minerals which may not be secure for his canine. He thought that he needed to give his canine premium water. So why not create water for canines, spring water that has the best taste profile for them?

He designed his entire firm round it. He examined it with round 5000 canines. He created these waters with totally different flavors, examined them out, and realized that crispy beef water was excellent for canines. They completely liked it – 95% of them would completely need to drink that water. He began promoting to grocery shops all throughout the US.

He did good the primary couple of months. He bought lots to grocery shops, and pet shops. But when the water was on the shelf, no person was shopping for it. And the rationale why was as a result of canines haven’t got wallets, they can not purchase water.

He examined this product out with canines and naturally, they’ll prefer it – it is crispy beef! What canine shouldn’t be going to love that? But shoppers weren’t seeing the identical downside that Marc Duke was seeing. They didn’t suppose that ingesting faucet water was harmful. And what was scary about the entire firm was that this was based mostly on one man’s downside. He had indicators alongside the best way that advised him that it wasn’t an actual downside, however he ignored it.


Karsten Winegeart thirsty dog


He would have a veterinarian say, you recognize what, that is an old-time elixir and it is probably not one thing that is going to work, it is like snake oil, and it isn’t going to be higher to your canine, I wouldn’t do it.

Mark’s response to it was that he noticed an issue, and he thought his canine will prefer it. That was his reasoning behind it. He would speak to tons of of individuals, and they might inform him that their canines drink from bathrooms they usually do not see a difficulty with it. If they’re ingesting from a rest room, they wouldn’t be shopping for bottled water for his or her canines. And his response to them often was “would you drink from the toilet?” I imply, it has nothing to do with bottled water versus faucet water! His logic simply wasn’t working as a result of he was biased.

It was an actual passionate downside for him that created a bias that made him blind to all the things else, not seeing each different client and never seeing it turned a difficulty.

What Is The Highest Lesson You’ve Realized On Defining Issues From All Of Your Years Of Expertise?

Matt: What you actually need to consider is splitting your self in half. Half of you must be gentle, and the opposite half of you must be laborious.

When you are speaking to an innovation person, your client, possibly it is somebody inside your organization that should use your service or product you should be gentle. And what I imply by that’s that we have to take all the things in, take away our bias, and take away what we all know.

I is likely to be within the business for 20 years, however it does not matter. I do know nothing. If you include that viewpoint of figuring out nothing and your person is aware of all the things, you begin to soak up their viewpoint.

Look at them because the consultants, study from them, perceive what their issues are, and perceive what their motivations are to actually just remember to are doing proper by your innovation’s finish person.

At the identical time, the opposite aspect of you must be laborious. This laborious aspect is your management and your government crew, your stakeholders. By laborious, I imply that a number of occasions we are going to get this “hey, I think that we need to change and pivot from creating a better service experience to a more convenient experience, that’s what really matters to consumers”.

You want to have the ability to say no, that’s not what we have to do. And be capable of give proof of why that’s. I do know that may very well be very troublesome for a lot of, particularly for lots of junior folks shifting in. You do not need to inform the proprietor of an organization or the CEO of an organization that no, we will not do that. But the factor is that you’re near the innovation course of, and you’re the one listening to the viewpoint of your customers. You should have their again and to just remember to’re them and saying to your government crew, that really the 95% of conversations that we have now had with shoppers advised me that they’re targeted on service.

What is the information which you can level to that proves why you are doing the belongings you’re doing, why they make sense, and why you need not pivot? Make positive that you’re laborious and push again. The government crew will thanks for it sooner or later. Otherwise, you are going to be pivoting in circles the entire time. Make positive that you’re gentle to your customers and laborious to your government crew.

Do You Suppose That We Want Processes In Innovation?

Matt: We cannot simply hug a tree and meditate and suppose that we’ll innovate. You cannot do this. You should have some sort of course of or philosophy behind all of it. But you must make it possible for that is not main the best way.

We cannot be main with design pondering as a result of design pondering is cool, that is what I realized, and I need to use it. That’s actually what it comes right down to. It’s simply stripping all the things down first, to know, OK, what’s my actual downside and the way can I create change right here and the way can I get folks to just accept that change? And then, as soon as you work that out, you possibly can take into consideration what instruments I would like from my toolbox that may assist me alongside the best way.

If I’ve a very large mission that I’m engaged on, that is going to be billions of {dollars} or possibly hundreds of thousands of {dollars}, I’d need to stage gate that as a result of I do not need to spend all that cash upfront. I need to see, what I can study in stage one, stage two, stage three.

So, what’s it going to take for folks to just accept it. This innovation could make you take a look at what processes you are going to use and when you are going to use them. It makes you extra purposeful about pulling one thing out of that toolbox quite than simply at all times utilizing it as a result of that is what innovation is.

Do You May Have Any Favourite Methodologies, Instruments, Or Strategies That You Simply Like To Make Use Of To Pinpoint The Issue Within The Innovation Course Of?

Matt: To discover the actual downside – ethnography. And that is my methodology of selection. Getting into the weeds with shoppers and going into their houses or working alongside an individual that you simply’re innovating for, is so eye-opening.




I sat on couches with shoppers to find out about their consuming habits and talked to them about their each day life at residence and what they eat. They’ll let you know issues like, “I eat very healthy, and only organic food.” Then we go have a look into their fridge and we’ll see that they’ve Oscar Mayer baloney and different issues. Then I’d ask, “I thought you ate all organic” and they might reply that that’s for a day that they’re actually busy, they usually haven’t got time, form of a shortcut.

During these ethnographies, studying out of your client is my favourite methodology for actually understanding what the actual downside is. That’s my go-to.

Is Ethnography One Thing {that A} Small Firm May Use Too?

Matt: Absolutely! And it comes right down to that time of being gentle, proper? The entire method to ethnography is to be the novice. Ask questions. Be curious. Talk to your shoppers.

An organization of 1 can go and study from their shoppers, from their customers. What their motivations and what their actual issues are simply by speaking to them. It’s all about being open and spending time with them. You may do it whatever the firm’s measurement, even by yourself, with out paying a giant agency to do it. To add to that, do not seed in your bias. Don’t lead with questions that you simply already know the reply to or need them to say. Don’t lead the witness. Just ask very broad questions and allow them to provide you with the solutions.

If you had been to ask them if they’ve an issue with college lunches, they may say, “Yes, I have a problem with school lunches”. You do not need to go at it straight on. You need to have the ability to ask questions like – “what are some of the biggest concerns you have for your children?” When you do it that manner it opens up the door for a solution you search to return out. Or not. And it may not come out and you must be OK with that.

Is There Any Form Of Antidote To Biases?

Matt: I’d first begin with studying the e book, the Mindful Innovator. I feel that is an ideal place to start out as a result of there are nice suggestions within the e book that assist you take away that bias.

What I try to do, and it’s talked about within the e book, is to know if the issue is actual. It comes right down to meditation.

Calm down just a little bit, simply sit down, calm down, flip all the things off for a couple of minutes, and be with your self, simply focus in your breath. I’d give attention to my respiration for five minutes and begin inhaling and respiration out. Just creating calmness and solitude. Once I get there, I actually begin to replicate on that downside.

When we get to questioning ourselves repeatedly, we may then uncover if that downside is actual.

When we begin all these layers of proof, we then begin to actually be capable of query ourselves and our personal motivations and see our personal bias. It simply comes right down to slowing down and reflecting. It’s not difficult. It’s not like you may have this actually difficult course of. It’s simply stopping for a minute and reflecting and excited about whether or not this really is an actual downside.

If you will regularly pivot, in the long run, you’ll understand it was incorrect. If we simply decelerate to suppose really by the entire scenario, we are able to transfer quicker and extra purposefully.

If You Would Need To Decide One Factor That You Desire To Our Listeners And Readers To Remove From This Dialog, What Wouldn’t It Be?

Matt: I suppose it’s going to be a private lesson that I realized over the previous couple of years.

The e book that I simply wrote took me 4 years to put in writing. It wasn’t as a result of I did not have the content material or ideas. It wasn’t as a result of I used to be a sluggish typer. It was as a result of I doubted myself and I feared what folks would suppose, that they don’t seem to be going to concentrate, they don’t seem to be going to take heed to me. But after one month of launching, I’ve gotten a lot nice suggestions and outreach, and persons are telling me that it’s really serving to them to replicate on their scenario and serving to them realign with their objective. That made me so joyful.

It additionally made me understand that the leaders that I seemed as much as as a toddler, like Martin Luther King, John F Kennedy, all of them, the entire time they had been doing simply that – they had been aligned with their objective, to create nice change on the earth.

It made me understand that if we simply decelerate, turn out to be extra conscious of our personal actions, and our personal setting, and attain a degree of consciousness in each dialog, each remark, and each second – we are able to all be aware innovators. Innovating quicker and extra purposefully. Just pay attention to what you might be doing. That one piece of recommendation will change all the things.

If we simply decelerate and turn out to be extra conscious of our personal actions, and our personal setting – we are able to all be aware innovators.


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