The idea on the end of the stick

I have been asked to facilitate an innovation ideation session to get as many ideas as possible.

Personally, words like ideation make me squirm a bit, in the same way that Richard Rumelt warns us to detect ‘fluff’ in bad strategy, ‘ideation’ has a whiff of fluff about it.

So let’s cut through the ‘fluff’

What does any company want to achieve, what’s the carrot at the end of the stick?

They want to retain or grow competitive advantage. Read: retain their current profitability and increase it.

How will they retain and grown competitive advantage?

Through new profitable initiatives.

Where does a new profitable initiative come from?

Innovation and Ideas.

What is innovation, really?

It is purposeful change. The act of uncovering or introducing a new idea or method.

 

So, applying our new found ‘de-fluffed’ logic you get something like this: As a company, we need ideas to create purposeful change to make us more profitable.

 

Phew. So now let’s get to the business of ‘how’ we are going to do it.

  1. We need a problem to solve or a challenge. Let’s for now, assume you know this. This isn’t a post about how to identify problems in your organisation. That is a story for another time. Challenge. Check.
  2. We need some people. Let’s assume you have them too, you might have corralled internal team members, or gone fancy and brought in customers or partners for collaboration. People. Check.

Once you have your challenge and your attendees. Then you need to work out how to leverage the combined brain power to come up with your… let’s go back to it… ideas to create purposeful change to make us more profitable.

Two considerations come to mind immediately from my talk with Dr Jeffrey Tobias (I fear a driving analogy might be careening towards us).

  1. Ideas exist at the intersection of thoughts.
  2. Purposeful change comes from the collision of ideas.

Yep. It’s a driving analogy all right.

Ideas exist at the intersection of throughs.

As humans we are delightful idea machines. Unlike computers that have byte addressable memory, we have content addressable memory. What is content? Content are our experiences. Our brains rather than looking for a specific piece of information in a specific file location, instead look at associations, we look at a new challenge and recall a similar one in an effort to work out how to achieve an action or solve a problem.

The lovely thing about humans is, all of our experiences are different. This means when answering the same challenge we arrive at a wide variety of different ideas.

This is where most ideation sessions STOP. Right, everyone’s had an idea, pack it up, we are done here, time to go home.

WAIT!

Purposeful change comes from the collision of ideas.

What do we mean by idea collision? If you listen to Dr Tobias, it is where you have an idea and someone else has an idea and you bring those two ideas together to create something bigger than its parts.

This isn’t a new concept. It is how we have evolved to be the species we are today. Corporations have cottoned on to this too, think of the facilities Google provide for their staff, they aren’t just perks, restaurants and lounge areas create space for collaboration and a breeding ground for idea collision.

Now if we use that unavoidable driving analogy then this is where collisions become distinctly less desirable. But in nature collisions are all around us and they are constructive as well as destructive. Next time you get a paper cut, spare a thought for all the selfless platelets colliding under your skin to create a clot to prevent blood loss, or when you look at the night sky, take a moment to consider the collisions required to form our moon.

So this is the part of the session where I like to get people into groups and together they talk about their ideas and try to identify at least one idea that is the product of their individual ideas they arrived at earlier in the session.

This will help with idea volume, and increase idea quality and improve your overall chances of reaching your carrot – which is – to create purposeful change to make you more profitable.

 

 

 

 

 

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