I remember the moment that I discovered how powerful a different perspective can be to learning something new. I inadvertently became a customer of a business process I had designed and implemented. The process, needless to say, was perfect from an internal point of view, optimized and efficient. But when I became a customer of that process I recognized that the interaction and experience wasn't that great for the customer. By looking at the process from a different point of view, I could quickly identify gaps that didn't appear from my other perspective as the designer of the process.
Changing your perspective
Whether you are a nascent entrepreneur or a corporate innovator, the lesson holds. To create really interesting and meaningful solutions, you've got to change your perspective, see the issue, opportunity or experience from multiple points of view. This means you've got to get out of your own cube, your own context and take on a new perspective. Or maybe several.
I think the best innovators are often the people who have deep empathy and the ability to view a product, an interaction, a process or experience from multiple perspectives. Using these perspectives they have more clarity about the strengths that should remain and the gaps that should be closed.
Design thinking can help
Design thinking can contribute a lot to this approach. Tools like the customer experience journey require you to think about the customer's journey and experience in finding, acquiring and using your product or service. Human centered design helps place the individual at the center of the work. Good observation or ethnography--really watching how a customer uses a product or works their way through an experience--can provide so much rich understanding.
One of my favorite articles about this kind of thinking wasn't written by innovators but by people interested in optimizing processes. Entitled Staple Yourself to an Order it encouraged managers and leaders to understand exactly what happens and why throughout the life of an order - an "order experience journey" of its day. The differences between what we believe happens and why it matters and what a prospect or customer experiences are often starkly different, and it is in these differences that competitors and new entrants emerge to solve problems and create disruptive solutions.
Gaining new perspectives
We too often fall into predictable ruts where the information we receive, the data we gather and the interactions we have become routine and predictable. I read a study that indicated that over 50% of product managers hadn't visited a customer in more than six months. When you rely on filtered information and reinforce the same perspective, you'll miss so many insights and opportunities.
Get out of your office. Go meet prospective customers and buyers. Build a prototype and offer it for sale. Try buying your prototype and think about what it would be like to be a customer. Go, take on a new perspective, or maybe even a few. You'll be surprised at what you learn.