Ideas Aren’t Innovation

Guerilla Innovation Chapter Six

Ideas Aren’t Innovation

Ideas are not Innovation — and it’s interesting how often “idea people” think that having a good idea is enough. Ideas need development and implementation — get that done and you’ve still got to run the business. If you’re a start-up you’ll need to hire a team of people, raise funds, market your idea, sell it, and somehow profit from it. Team building, fund raising, operations — these are all essential and they all contribute to the innovation puzzle. I’ll touch on them later in Guerilla Innovation (this online book) but, this book is primarily about innovation — that component of a business where value is created. And creation is an awful lot about ideas.

You’d be pretty hard pressed to do something innovative as a small business person without fresh ideas. The next three posts (this is part one) will be about how to jam useful, unique, and breakthrough ideas for innovation. In my view, it’s the most essential skill for innovation. Not the only skill by any means, but without this one  — you’re lost.

How to Have More and Better Ideas for Innovation (Part 1 of 3)

It’s called by many names: brainstorming, idea generation, ideation, and New Product Development (NPD) to name a few. Don’t make the mistake of thinking there is a common understanding of what these terms mean, there is not. There is an amazing amount of controversy about whether brainstorming even works, for example. Johah Lehrer’s recent book Imagine: How Creativity Works says it doesn’t. Many Yale scholars say it doesn’t. Then there are the defenders, myself included, who say it does work if it’s done well. Whatever! The point is you still need ideas at the end of the day — and breakthrough ideas do not grow on trees. For the purpose of this blogged book, let’s just call it idea generation.

If you’ve been reading this online book in sequence, you’ll know that before you make a focused effort on idea generation you need to spend a lot of  time understanding your market niche, the potential customers, the issues, pain, perceptions and technologies of your business area. I’ve provided some tools for doing that — your Jungle Plan, CPS, COQ, and Notebooking — are all about setting yourself up for an amazing idea. So, if you haven’t done or aren’t doing those things yet, do them (with CPS it’s the first phase). Be aware that while exploration and analysis of what’s happening is important, it will only set you up. Ideas are usually intuitive leaps. It’s not A + B = C. It’s more like A + B = G. When “G” occurs to you it will seem logical in retrospect, but logic and analysis will not get you there — they only provide the diving board. I have a theory on how to step your mind up to a breakthrough in idea generation and I call it Scaffolding. The next two blog posts will have a lot about that.

But first…

Ultimately, you need to have an interesting question to answer in order to start idea generation. You can also call it a problem frame, or a challenge. It would look something like these examples:

  • In what ways might we (or I) …reinvent the vacum cleaner?
  • How might we…provide a different kind of promotional service for public speaker?
  • In what ways might we…provide a truly family oriented destination in Las Vegas?

I have a lot more to say about problem framing, but I’m trying to keep these chapters very short, so, that will be it for now. If you are going to  jam a problem frame my coaching is: keep it simple, make a list of them related to your challenge, and start with the words, In What Ways Might We…


For Chapter Seven of Guerrilla Innovation — Click HERE.

The pre-cursor book to this online book on small business innovation (aka Guerrilla Innovation) is Jack’s Notebook, a business novel about creative problem solving.  This is a great story that blends all the concepts of Guerrilla Innovation into one fast-paced, thriller type book. Yes, Jack does Notebooking!

Posted in Books & Reviews, Creative Problem Solving (CPS), Entrepreneurial, Innovation, Start-ups