Your colleagues. They are a fountain of knowledge. They are also the people you will need to work with in order to get any innovation off the ground. So you must involve them in the process of mapping opportunities for your business.
Stakeholder interviews are a great way to fast-track understanding and get informed perspectives on potential areas of opportunity. They also serve as a useful barometer of where the excitement and energy for innovation resides within your organisation. This frequently bears little relation to seniority — senior managers often have enough on their plates taking care of Business As Usual.
Be careful not to limit yourself to members of insight and strategy teams during stakeholder consultation. And if your business is international, be sure to look beyond your local office too. The aim is to get as wide a set of perspectives as possible, not a homogenous point of view. Make a special effort to talk to those who interact directly with your customers, such as sales teams and customer service representatives: what challenges do they encounter, how do they communicate the value proposition to customers, and what would they like to say to customers that they are unable to say currently?
Typical questions during stakeholder interviews might include:
What is your organisation world class at?
When you think about the future of your organisation, what scares you most?
Five years from now, what will be the headline news in your category?
Which competitor threatens your organisation most?
If you started a new business in this industry tomorrow, what would its offer be?
What is the limiting belief that is stopping your organisation maximising its potential?
Who else should we be talking to about this?
In my experience, stakeholder consultation is always well received. Everyone appreciates being asked to share their opinion, and being able to forget the more mundane responsibilities of their day job for an hour or so.
The obvious time to conduct stakeholder interviews is at the beginning of the opportunity mapping process, but it needn’t be a one-time thing. Periodic check-ins can be useful throughout the project, to stress-test preliminary thinking and invite feedback and builds. It’s really a matter of building relationships: the work you put into stakeholder management at this stage will pay off in spades when it comes to getting support for ideas further down the line.