November 27, 2014

Idea Generation in Organizations

What Is an Idea?
What’s the definition of a useful idea for innovation?  The idea may  lead to the highest
impact in the market; it may inspire a hundred other great ideas;


A great example of a very useful idea is super market in factory from Taiichi Ohno, the man credited with  developing the revolutionary Toyota production system, which is today being implemented throughout the world. Ohno wrote that kanban is the tool used to operate the order based system using kanban and it is based on the idea of using refilling strategy of American supermarkets. Ma ny people before Ohno knew the strategy of supermarket refilling, but could not notice the connection between it and the rational factory.

But Ohno was prepared to see that connection because he already had the question of how to improve the factory firmly lodged in is mind. It was his preoccupation with the problem that made him see the solution in the supermarket. Creative people bring ideas that others do not see from the outside, and
understand how they can be applied inside.


You cannot identify a great idea when it was presented to you by somebody in your organization unless you first define what constitutes greatness. And once you define what is a great idea, then you have to put in a process to evaluate ideas submitted to you.  Naturally, they come about in
many different ways, and not as a result of a single activity or a single process. Sometimes they arrive spontaneously, but as we learned in making the distinction between preparation and luck, it’s not enough to sit and wait for them to arrive on their own. It’s far better to proactively and aggressively
create them.

What information should we assemble when we’re searching for a great idea? What experiences should we pursue? Experiences about our customers, our competitors, our own company, our
suppliers, and about the external factors such as technology and globalization that will have an impact on our business. Information about them?

• Where would we find those experiences, and that information? We’d get it from a variety of public and private sources, many of which we would examine carefully and frequently.
• Or if it wasn’t information we could find, but had to create, then what would we do? We’d learn about the process of creativity and then we’d do what creative people do when they’re looking for
great ideas.
• And what would we do to turn ideas into something that we will use in our business? If we had a lot of ideas, we’d choose the best ones and develop them.

When we’ve done all those things we will know that there are lots of ways to come up with ideas, and in the pages that follow I’ll mention more than 40 of them.


Use Multiple Viewpoints


There’s an important principle underlying the search for insights and ideas, which is that to succeed at it you have to come at it from multiple points of view. You’ll certainly fail to come up with any great ideas if you look at your problems or your markets with the same perspectives that you use in the dayto-day course of normal work.


Hence, the goal here is to see differently by setting time aside to peer into the future, and adopting multiple differing perspectives about the future. So in addition to your deep immersion in “internal " point of view, the team must explore other viewpoints.

For example, ask:

• “How do our customers view things? What’s really bothering them?”

• Or you could examine what your competitors think, or your key suppliers.

• You should also ask, “What does the evolution of technology tell us about these issues? And what about changing demographics, and globalization?”

• You could also consider what the problem would look like if you were an Asian company, or a European one.


Edward de Bono is famous for the numerous methods he’s developed to help people to be more creative, among which the process called “lateral thinking” is quite well known. The premise behind lateral thinking is as simple as it is effective: when you look at the same thing in a different way
you are likely to be more creative, and if you can change perspectives at will
then your creativity can be expanded enormously.

The point is clear: you have to adopt multiple different viewpoints to grasp the full scope of the issues you’re facing today, and those you’ll face tomorrow. The means of doing so are equally clear: you have to help people to change their own perspectives, and at the same time bring multiple
individuals with different viewpoints together and ask them to interact with one another.


Who’s Doing It?

The goal of ideation is to come up with lots of great ideas, the more the better. But quantity is not enough. Ideas also have to be different from one another so that they’ll be applicable in many possible different worlds (i.e., markets) that may exist today and in the future.
Differences are therefore sought along three different dimensions.

First, by engaging in a variety of different types of activities - here presented in six different categories - and second by involving very diverse groups of participants in the activities you undertake.  A key reason for this is that diverse individuals tend to see things differently
than one another, and from their different points of view they can conceptualize a much wider variety of possible solutions.

To further enhance this process you should also engage outsiders, including customers, experts, consultants, and suppliers to participate along side the insiders.

The third dimension that you’ll use to broaden your pool of ideas is to get a lot of people involved. In fact, you’ll want the maximum possible number of people for the broadest possible input and participation. In various formats of participation there may be hundreds or thousands of people eventually involved, whether for ten minutes, ten days, or ten months at a time.


As you engage people in ideation, you’ll quickly find interesting differences among individuals. Some, for example, are natural trend trackers, and they know a tremendous amount about what’s going on because they like to think broadly. They regularly follow events and find the links
which connect them. Others are highly focused on their own projects and think deeply on fewer issues, so they hardly pay any attention at all to outside trends. Some people are natural problem identifiers and can tell you what’s wrong with just about anything that’s going on inside or outside of their organization, while others hardly take note of the problems but often come up with good solutions effortlessly.


How to Create Ideas: The Six Ideation Processes

1. The universal search methods, three approaches whose applicability to the practice of innovation are exceptionally useful in nearly every conceivable situation.

2. Trend gathering, monitoring the external environment and thinking about the key patterns that are most important to your organization.

3. Idea hunting, proactively seeking out and creating new ideas.

4. Problem and solution finding, searching for previously unidentified weaknesses in current methods and processes using fresh eyes, searching for solutions to specific problems that have already been identified as important, or reexamining the way we do it now to find the hidden defects.

5. Outside-in and peer-to-peer innovation, processes that engage the broader world outside the organization in the search for insights and ideas.

6. Future dreaming, the process of exploring possible futures to imagine opportunities that do not exist, and to provoke insight into what could be, or what could be created.


Overall, the key differences between these approaches is that they involve different styles of thinking, and each therefore addresses the processes of insight and ideation with different types of questions, but all with the ultimate goal of maximizing the number of great ideas in your stock of useful possibilities.

It’s worth noting that trend gathering and idea hunting are complementary, one oriented to recognizing change as it is happening, and the other to creating change. Problem finding and solution finding are also complements, as they consider existing realities from two very different points of view.


Fun, Joy and Creativity

One of the most important principles of creativity is that it’s really hard to be creative unless you’re having fun.

Drudgery, boredom, conformance, and compliance are all creativity killers in the worst way, which means that all of the ideation processes listed below have to be pursued with some degree of whimsy and light-heartedness even as fundamental principles of business judgment will ultimately underlie all decisions.

Convergent thinking is the focus that is required to organize and complete a task, narrowing options
and moving forward toward decisions, actions, and implementation. Organizations have to use convergent thinking after required rounds of divergent thinking.

Divergent thinking is the thought process that leads to new ideas, because it is based on looking for a different  (i.e., novel) way of solving a problem as opposed to a similar way as that of current solution. Creativity is all about recognizing a different way of solving a problem and if it make a difference to the future of the organization it becomes a great idea - different products, different services, different business models.


From Permanent Innovation - Langdon Morris

Permanent Innovation
The Definitive Guide to the Principles, Strategies, and Methods of
Successful Innovators
Langdon Morris

Langdon Morris is a co-founder and principal of InnovationLabs LLC and Senior Practice Scholar at the Ackoff Center of the University of Pennsylvania and Senior Fellow of the Economic Opportunities Program of the Aspen Institute.





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