Almost everyone accepts the importance of innovation. Why then do most organizations do it so poorly? That’s because innovation is generally random, haphazard, one-off and outside the norm. Instead, make it systematic and part of your everyday culture.

Doug Hall is a master innovator, always innovating himself and helping others innovate. His new book, published today, Driving Eureka: Problem Solving with Data Driven Methods and the Innovation Engineering System” has easy to understand frameworks, processes and ideas. Additionally there are valuable tools and some of Doug’s best stories.

The book’s fundamental framework deploys:

    • Blue Cards to focus your efforts.
    • Starting with the customer problem as what matters and why.
    • A “Meaningfully Unique” framework.
    • Diversity of ideas to multiply your impact.
    • A systemic process.

Blue Cards

Doug suggests using Blue Cards to charter teams. These lay out your purpose, what you see as the “very important” opportunity or system improvement, clarity on whether you’re looking for “LEAP” or “core” innovation on a long-term strategic or project-specific basis, whether this applies to the entire organization or a specific division or department, your name for the effort, a narrative describing how you got here, the strategic mission, strategic exclusions (barriers), tactical constraints (like design, time, resources, investment, regulation,) areas for project exploration or long-term innovation.

Customer Problem

Doug has taken a classic positioning statement and repurposed it to help frame innovation efforts. The elements include:

  • Customer and problem (think target)
  • Customer promise (think benefit)
  • Product/Service/System proof (think reason to believe)
  • Meaningfully unique (dramatic difference)

Meaningfully Unique Framework

This is an evolution of the framework Doug has been using for literally decades.

Meaningfully Unique = [Stimulus mining / Drive out fear] raised by diversity of thinking

Doug’s definition of meaningfully unique is that people will pay more for something.

Doug has been against pure brainstorming forever. He sees it has just sucking the useless stuff out of tired people. Instead, he suggests providing people stimuli to prompt new thinking through exploring, experiencing, and experimenting building off his early days of “creativity, stimulus and fun.

None of this works unless you can give people permission to innovate and remove their fear of failure, embarrassment of punishment.

And the value of diverse perspectives, people and ideas multiplies the impact of everything.


One of Doug’s favorite quotes through the years has been “In God we trust. All others must bring data.” Data is an equalizer. Doing things like using Fermi Estimating (breaking an estimate into discrete, bite-sized parts) help remove fear and make it easier for diverse people to participate. There’s much more to be said about the value of diversity. Lack of diversity is one of the main reasons why the highest performing teams always fail over time.


A core tenet of Doug’s Innovation Engineering System is an easy to follow process: Define – Discover – Develop – Deliver with Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles within it and a healthy dose of mind-mapping to keep things moving. Blue Cards charter groups that come up with ideas. Yellow Cards help groups track those ideas.

Yellow Cards include idea headlines, customer/stakeholder, problem, promise, proof, price/cost, raw math, death threats (to the idea), passion (why we care.) They clarify whether the idea addresses a LEAP or Core opportunity or system in line with the Blue Card used to charter the group.

In closing, Doug reminded me about the importance of “leadership’s role in the process of enabling the system of development. Recall – 50%+ of value is lost during development.  Simply telling people what to do – is not enough.  Leadership needs to embrace a new mindset where they take responsibility for the systems of development.   Command and Control and leadership by numbers needs to be replaced with “Commanders Intent” and systems that enable innovation by everyone.  Only the leadership can do this – as only the leadership has the responsibility and authority for the whole.”

Driving Eureka! will give you a different perspective on leading innovation. Or, follow this link for an abridged one-hour audio book.