New ideas can often feel elusive, and as the cornerstone of innovation this can be problematic - without new ideas, whether that means a completely new invention or an alternative approach to problem solving, it is difficult to be a truly innovative company.
Yet perhaps coming up with new ideas would not seem so insurmountable if it were broken down into stages, with a comprehensive strategy in place for each stage that feeds and nourishes the next? Rather than focusing on the somewhat abstract notion of ‘needing ideas’, putting processes in place to generate, select and then implement ideas is a more practical and results-orientated approach to innovation.
The first stage in any ideas strategy is generation, as without this initial phase there will be nothing that you can select and implement. This can often be the most difficult phase, as it requires creativity and vision to explore what is not yet known, an essentially infinite and limitless task. However, there are tried and tested techniques you can use to boost the amount and quality of ideas that you generate.
For Inc.com, ‘the big challenge of generating great ideas is freeing yourself from the conventional, mundane thoughts that occupy most of your brain time.’ One way Inc.com suggests you can do this is through ‘observation sessions’. This can be as simple as people watching in a crowded city, mall or zoo, because it allows you to ‘observe exciting activity and behaviour that makes [you] think anew’ and stimulates your brain into thinking differently.
Entrepreneur.com suggests that idea generation takes work, and making small changes to your daily habits can make generating new ideas a part of your daily psyche. The article points to the approach of James Altucher, an American entrepreneur and author, who recommends starting to develop your ‘idea muscle’ by writing down ten of your ideas every morning on a tablet or in a small notebook.
He suggests ‘regular practice is more important than the nature of the ideas themselves, because what you really need is the confidence you can create on demand. Don't expect your ideas to be perfect; perfectionism is your enemy.’
Once you have been able to generate a number of ideas, the next stage is to select them. While this may sound simple enough, choosing the right idea at the right moment could be the difference between success and failure.
Writing for Harvard Business Review (HBR), innovator at Queensland Business School Tim Kastelle argues that idea selection is possibly more important than idea generation. Kastelle suggests a number of criteria against which you can select ideas, among them asking which idea is most valuable to your customers or which will help your organisation to build the most comprehensive innovation portfolio.
In the case of the first, using customer validation, focus groups, crowdsourcing or customer co-creation can be particularly useful to incremental innovation or developing an idea with a specific market in mind. If building a well-rounded innovation portfolio is your aim, as is the case for large organisations like Google, you should aim to strike a balance between ‘incremental ideas, extensions into adjacent markets, and radical innovations.’ If your innovation offering is weaker in one area, this can be a good way to focus your idea selection strategy and build a more holistic culture of innovation across your organisation.
Once you have generated a good number of ideas and selected the one(s) to take forward, it is time to convert this idea into reality.
For Forbes contributor Glenn Llopis, ‘the process of cultivating an idea into a reality is a never ending cycle if you want to keep the idea alive over changing times.’ This of course requires dedication, time and money, but according to Llopis there are a number of attitudinal steps you can take to make the initial phases of implementation easier. One of these is becoming receptive to risk, and ensuring that you have a strong risk management strategy in place will keep this calculated and productive.
Llopis also suggests that maintaining momentum is vital for furthering the implementation of your idea. He argues that ‘building momentum has a lot to do with timing and the management and deployment of resources. Every resource counts. Know when and when not to use them so their value is optimally utilized at the right place and time.’
If you’re looking to build a comprehensive idea management strategy which incorporates idea generation, selection and implementation, check out our workshop designed to do precisely that, or follow the links below to find out more about how think can help.
As global innovation specialists we aim to help and encourage people and organizations to become more nimble, boosting their ability to generate ideas. We bring pace and focus to your innovation initiatives using our unique innovation techniques, which are constantly being developed by our professional licensees. If you’re interested in becoming a licensee for the think team, contact us here.