If you are trying to innovate and are looking for new ideas and insights for new products or services, nothing proves more useful and fruitful than getting out of the office and out from behind the computer, then immersing yourself in the World outside. Where real people live and work. Go to where your customers and potential users are.
The art of seeing and observing people with an open mind and especially recording those observation with good ethnographic techniques, such as video, diaries and in person interviews. Makes you more aware of existing pain points, that can be fixed and improved upon. It can also fuel new ideas for things that can be introduced and created to improve peoples lives and make your services and products better and easier to use. Techniques such as participant observations where you try for yourself what others have to go through, will give you incredible first hand experience of what people do and how they do it. Living with a customer for a day or watching them use your service or product without prompting can be incredibly insightful, about what is lacking, and where improvements can be made. The data and information your gather can fuel many insightful innovations.
This you cannot gain from sitting at a computer and just assuming what people do in the outside World, where noise and distraction can occur. You cannot even always believe what people say they do, you sometimes are best seeing them do it and then trying it for yourself. Then you can better empathize and really begin to use design to solve and build something with a clear purpose for improvement. Designers are incredibly adept at solving problems and coming up with innovative solutions, sadly though their focus is not always finely tuned to the exact problem they are solving or they are tasked with the wrong problem to solve by their clients. Getting them out of the office and educating your clients that can hide behind their data from focus groups gets you closer to problems and ideas that really need fixing, inventing or improving.