Innovation starts with having good ideas and ideally a lot of them. Organizations cannot just sit around and wait for a stroke of luck to happen. They need to actively, continuously and systematically generate ideas to fill their innovation pipeline. Getting started is actually much easier than you’d think. Here are 10 tips to start building your pipeline of innovative ideas today.
#1 – Take time – People schedule time for things that they find important: for meetings, for having dinner with friends or for their favorite hobbies. Strangely enough, they hardly ever free up time for thinking. Schedule thinking time in your agenda: this is as much an activity as having a business meeting. And maybe even more important.
#2 – Change location – Business creativity and innovative thinking are all about new perspectives and breaking away from what we think we know. In this case it means very literally to change your physical location. Leave your office or your place of work and go somewhere else where you are freed from everyday (work)life and will not be disturbed. Doing things the same way as we have done them before will not lead to a different outcome.
#3 – Have focus – In most cases, thinking without direction will not lead to anything. Either your thoughts will be all over the place, or you will experience a form of mental paralysis facing a blank sheet. It is bound to become a disappointing experience. You must scope the domain that you want to work on; box it in, fence it off. Is it a specific product or one of the product’s components? Will you be working on your channels or your customer relationships? It doesn’t matter how you scope it, as long as you constrain your thinking by having a specific focus.
#4 – Think big – People tend to be modest in their thinking which results in equally modest ideas. Innovation is about creating value for your business. Don’t think too small: stretch your imagination and think big. Don’t be shy. And even if your big idea isn’t right, the chance of finding a valuable small idea hidden inside it is much bigger than the other way around. Plus, it’s much easier to scale down a big idea than to scale up a small idea.
#5 – Collaborate – How different are the ideas you generate today from those you have tomorrow? Typically, not much. Create a team of two or more and new ideas start flowing. More ideas are generated by working with someone than by working alone. People inspire each other, they can build on each other’s ideas and hold one another accountable. Where two or more worlds collide, magic happens and new ideas are born.
#6 – Nurture ideas – People have the tendency to judge new ideas very quickly. It’s always easy to find reasons why an idea would not work, why customers wouldn’t buy the product or why the business model would fail. We must be very careful with new ideas in the early stages of idea generation. In this phase, these are often no more than hunches or little seeds of ideas. We must nurture these ideas, protect and feed them. Instead of saying “No, but…” when you hear and idea, say “Yes, and…!”. Build on the idea and explore the idea further. Don’t make the mistake of killing a valuable idea early in the process.
#7 – Change perspective – We have said it before: doing things the same way and expecting different results does not work. In order to see new opportunities and find ideas, we need to change the way we look at things. We have to change our perspective and we must force ourselves to consider new angles. Even without knowing any techniques for business creativity, the following few basic innovative mindsets will help us change the perspective with which we look at the world.
Challenge the Assumptions: what implicit and explicit assumptions do we make? Are these assumptions actually true? What if they are false? Does a fork always need a knife? Can pepper only come with salt? Can hoses only be round? Assumptions are a roadblock for innovation. Find them, challenge them and create new opportunities.
Change the Context: put your product in another context. What if it were used in another country? What if it needed to be used in space or under water? What if a baby or elderly person needed to use it? What can we learn from that? How can we use those insights to deliver more value?
Break the Rules: what are the rules of the game? What conventions are in place, what orthodoxies exist and what approaches are common? Uncover the rules of an industry, a product category or a customer channel. Start breaking these rules and find ways to do things differently. Can we create any value by doing this?
#8 – Use techniques – Thinking techniques can make even the most uncreative person creative. These techniques for business creativity guide your thought processes and force you to consider situations that you would never have thought of by yourself. They add structure and help you generate a large number of ideas. There is a wide array of techniques available in popular literature and online. Try to push your limits and step out of your comfort zone when selecting a technique.
#9 – Visualize ideas – When you have an idea: try to visualize it, sketch it out. This brings an idea to life much more than words do. Even if you are bad at drawing. A visualized idea helps discussing the idea with your team. People can complement the sketch and you reach a much better understanding of your idea. The proverb is true: a picture can say more than 1,000 words.
#10 – Document ideas – Please don’t forget to document any idea and insight that you generate. Sometimes you generate so many ideas that you cannot work on each of them immediately. If you do not document them right away they will be lost and it might just make you miss a great opportunity. The second reason for documenting your ideas is that it makes it easier for you to hand them over to others. Initial idea documentation is simple: give the idea a catchy title, briefly describe it, visualize it and write down what makes the idea valuable.
Follow these 10 tips and start building your pipeline of innovative ideas today!
FlyWheel Business is expert in Innovation Management. Interested to learn more? Ask us your question.
© Ernst-Jan van Batenburg, FlyWheel Business
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