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News from The Huffington Post overnight brought to light just how far this Pokémon Go phenomenon is reaching.
A New Hampshire police department posted to Facebook that a Charizard, an exceedingly rare Pokémon, was in the vacinity of their headquarters. Law enforcement's intention? To lure fugutives with the promise of a prize capture. These police believed that even criminals on the run would have to catch 'em all too.
As funny a story as this is, there're some things we can all take away from it. And those things have a lot to do with what innovation looks like.
For this police department, the goal was clear: catch the guys they're after, guys who apparently have proven immune to other methods.
For the rest of us, having a clear sense of where you're trying to get to is imperative. An intimate understanding of the problem that needs solving is imperative if you're serious about solving it. A rich knowledge, like police knowing the kinds of guys they're trying to catch, is the pool of information that has to be drawn on in the development of a solution.
Take an example closer to home, such as the implementation of a novel work-chat app like Slack of Google Hangouts. These are solutions that arise once the places teams are communicating are becoming ever expansive and ever varied. To land on a platform like this, a team has to know the device usage patterns of the team members, as well as what the cultural expectations of the team are. A lack of knowledge, or an igorance of information, might just be the next HR disaster.
There's no time before the last few weeks that the solution reached by these police officers could have been reached. It displays such a sensitivity to the cultural pulse that it strikes as an innovative flourish of genius. "Of course!" you think when reading about it. It just makes so much sense right now.
Innovation is so tied to your current context that one can't happen without the other.
Sure, this involves technology, but also - and this was critical for those New Hampshire police - knowing how people are technologically engaged. It's one thing to find some super-new video platform, thinking it'll be the next big thing, but it ignores that, when all's said and done, everyone's still going to watch on YouTube. Being plugged into the now is different from being obsessed with novelty.
Stay engaged with technological developments as well as insightful analysis, but always take it with a grain of salt. Look at your own points of interaction with technology to get a more accurate picture. Because, after all, you should be able to...
There's a saying in Silicon Valley: make small decisions with data, make big decision with your gut. But I don't think this really captures the whole story.
This choice to leverage the popularity of Pokémon Go to catch criminals is undoubtedly a small one. And maybe if a decision like this was made with data (or at least more rigourous data), it could have resulted in a some criminals being caught (which it didn't). But it's also a relatively low-risk environment to test a theory. If nothing else is working, why not?
Working from your intuitions can have be extremely valuable. Michael Riley, a radar operator in the British Navy during the first Gulf war, made a gut decision that saved countless lives. During the second day of the ground offensive against Iraqi troops, a blip appeared on Riley's radar - a signal that looked like an American fighter jet. But, trusting his gut that this blip could also indicate an incoming enemy missile, Riley fired two surface-to-air missiles, single-handedly saving an allied battleship.
If something feels right, there's a chance it just might be. These kinds of feelings need to be mined if you're serious about supporting a culture of innovative thinking. Too often in the business and corporate spheres, we rely only on what our heads are telling us, and we garner a capacity to think. However, we already have a supremely developed capacity to feel. Why would you ignore that?
The New Hampshire police sent this Facebook update and singled out a specific list of people to be "invited down to the station" - people they explicity targetted with the hope of attracting (they didn't want a bunch of randoms showing up outside the station). As strange as it might seem, they acted as if they were convinced this would work.
Now, it might seem like an idea "so crazy it just might work", but there still must have been some reservations. No criminal would be that stupid to willfully show up, would they? But for whatever uncertainties these officers might have had, they presented a united front.
Any innovative solution, if its truly innovative, will seem crazy, the thought of adopting it uncomfortable.
A fear of failure is really holding back so much legitimately insightful innovative thinking. And being scared or uncomfortable is perfectly fine, so long as you still make the innovative decision. Because success is always worth the risk of failure.
Now, as was mentioned, these police officers didn't catch any criminals. This wild Pokémon Go strategy failed. Hard.
But they're better for having tried it. Their now-viral Facebook post has raised their profile, every piece like this one written a quiet round of applause for taking a risk on an innovative solution.
Embracing failure as a real possibility and understand that innovation is a constant process, one where there aren't bad ideas until they're been tested, failed, and learned from.