Idea Generation

    Training is an Innovation Accelerant

    trainingfireCreativity and innovation training is a highly effective accelerant for business results.

    When I step into a room to facilitate an innovation, strategy, or idea generation session I nearly always find a great deal of energy.

    What I also often find is inexperience — in the kind of thinking necessary to innovate.

    Successful managers and leaders are promoted up the ladder because of their great analytical thinking skills. Day to day, operationally, that’s what’s called for and that’s what’s rewarded. The bad news is the more imaginative and divergent thinking required at the front end of innovation is rarely used and almost never rewarded. That’s why those sessions often start with a great deal of pizazz but fade into lethargy right after lunch. A good facilitator can help but the artist formerly known as Prince couldn’t keep some of these sessions rockin. Mercy!

    Energy, motivation, even inspiration are important factors in getting innovation rolling. But none of them, or all of them together, are enough to overcome untrained thinking. Creative thinking skills are taken for granted — and that’s a problem because without training and practice very few people are naturally good at creative thinking. Everyone is creative, everyone has that capacity, but it’s latent until trained. I have the capacity to run a Marathon — it’s possible — but if I went out there today I’d be lucky to walk 26 miles.

    Yes, you can train the various aspects of creative thinking (imaginative, divergent, visioning, strategic, conceptual). If you want idea generation of any kind to work – don’t skip training. Much of the research that says brainstorming doesn’t work studied groups with no training. Training, a good facilitator, and frequent practice are foundational elements to effective sessions and organizational innovation culture.

    That difficult bit of  invention that analysis can’t quite solve on its own is especially challenging for corporations. Training can make a big difference in bridging the gap between market knowledge and… what could be. It’s not enough to know a market white space. It’s not enough to have “insights” from in-depth research. It’s the creative thinking that builds on that research and insight that gets you workable concepts and ultimately market results.

    Managers, leaders, and innovation teams need to understand how to think about innovation — and they need to know how to think and implement innovation. It doesn’t just happen.

    You’ll see immediate and positive results with creativity and innovation training. Min Basadur did a rigorous study, see here, and that’s not the only proof. Individuals learn how to think and express ideas in a more positive, focused, and free flowing way with certain types of creativity training. Teams achieve breakthrough results when properly facilitated through through a rapid, flexible, but structured process at the front end of innovation. Frameworks like CPS are essential. Power tools like applied improvisation games can help you run faster. Stimulus tools like KILN’s IdeaKeg help you scaffold your thinking using trends from outside your industry or category.

    Creativity training feeds innovation process like wood wool feeds flame.

    The creative training many experts advocate is structured Creative Problem Solving training (CPS, aka ‘Osborn-Parnes model’) and Front End of Innovation process training (FEI). CPS is a time-tested framework. Many innovation consultants use CPS or their own modified versions of CPS (see my business novel about CPS, Jack’s Notebook.) CPS is broad enough and flexible enough to incorporate Design Thinking tools and even applied improvisation games. FEI process training is about how to conduct and orchestrate a series of activities that happen before the classic stage-gate/pipeline of new product development. Stage-gate is in the textbooks. FEI training is being done, but is relatively obscure. CPS training is generally more available — but not ubiquitous.

    If you have a team that is already trained, take it to the next level with an Improv to Innovate workshop. Improv isn’t just about comedy — it’s about improved access to spontaneous thinking, and applied creativity to business challenges.

    Sadly, it’s notable that as an innovation budget line item — it is often left out entirely, or, it’s the first sacrificial lamb to be cut. It should be the first thing done because creativity and innovation training is an accelerant towards more rapid business results.

    Training Accelerates Innovation in Five Strategic Ways:

    1. Improved creative thinking skill leads to more breakthrough new business concepts
    2. Training helps instil structured creative thinking and innovation process as a cultural value and habit
    3. CPS and FEI training provide innovation teams with a common language and framework to solve problems. This means expedited resolution of challenges and more rapid iteration of new business concepts
    4. Training corrects many of the common myths that surround creativity and innovation. There is a science to this that is largely ignored. For those that learn and practice the science — it’s a competitive advantage.
    5. Team efficiency improves because a lot of useless chatter, debate, and conflict is reduced or eliminated

    If you are in charge of an innovation program or initiative — do training first. All activities that happen afterwards will be performed at a higher level, and from day one. Imagine creativity applied to research, platform question framing, idea generation, concept development, and management presentations. Imagine an innovation framework your team can get better and better at…

    Creative training is the fuel for innovation fire.

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    The Innovation Metronome

    There is no achievement without hard work. There is no breakthrough innovation without hard work. Innovation happens when you practice with discipline, with rhythm. We sometimes get lucky with things and shortcuts present themselves. Even then, one has to be ready to recognise luck when it’s sitting in front of you — on its hind legs begging for a ham bone. Even recognising a breakthrough innovation opportunity takes the hard work of understanding the market, the context. Call that deep research. Usually innovation is a bit like the guitar lesson I had yesterday. I take a weekly lesson from a kind church lady. Donna is a great teacher, she swings, in the musical sense. I emphasize the kind aspect of

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    Leaders Hate the Concept of Creativity

    SNARK ALERT I’m not trying to be snarky. I am snarky. I’ve always been snarky.  I like being snarky, it’s fun. Here’s the problem: Being snarky is a bit like being the boy that cried wolf. When you’re being a smart ass just for practice you often stretch the truth. Okay, I often throw the truth out the window to be funny or to shock — but not in this blogg! As a creativity and innovation writer I suppress my inner Snark in order to be taken seriously. But now I think I’m doing you a disservice. The value of SNARK is it can be a wakeup call. As an innovation thought leader, I’m here to help. You can improve, you can

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    Ten Ideas for Using Innovation Film Clips

    I’ve written an article on Innovation in movies – Inspiring Innovation Films: a Top Ten List.  It’s been published on the Innovation Excellence portal — I’d be most grateful if you’d read it and comment over there. Today’s post is a value add to that article with some ideas on how to use creativity and innovation clips in projects and meetings. If you’re an innovation educator, manager, or team leader you may want to consider using clips as training and/or stimulus tools. I’m a big one for keeping things entertaining no matter what you’re doing. Movie clips are a great way to do that. Here are Ten Ideas on how to integrate film clips into an innovation project: Send out a

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    Indigan Storytellers Debut

    I had the pleasure of participating in the debut performance evening of the Indigan Storytellers group last Friday night. As Rocky Balboa once said “you shoulda been there.” It was an intimate evening of exquisitely told stories coupled with fine hand-crafted whiskey. The location was Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, Michigan. The room was packed and a good time was had by all. I report on the event here for two reasons. First, because Storytelling as an art form is creativity of the highest order. Innovators of all kinds have much to learn about the craft as a method to elaborate new inventions, messages, and brands. Learning how to write and then perform a 10 minute story is an exercise

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    Ideational Speaker, Gregg Fraley

    I do keynotes on creativity and innovation topics — and this is not something I hide. It’s all over my website and I do my best to promote my speaking on FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and in my blog postings. So, it’s not unusual for me to be confronted — at a cocktail party or a business meeting — with the comment: So you’re a “Motivational Speaker.” It’s a fair observation, but it’s really…inexact when it comes to describing what I actually do. It’s not Wrong, but there’s more to my speaking than motivation. My talks are about ideas, so really, I’m an Ideational Speaker.  Yes, I make an effort to motivate people to be more creative and innovative. So, I

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    Need Ideas for Creative Alternatives to Government Paralysis

    I’m sick of having a dysfunctional government. I know it’s a complex power struggle. I know there are many points of view as to why this dysfunction exists. I think this crazy partial government shutdown is probably going to happen, and to me this signals a new low. I’m not interested, right now, in a right or left opinion of whose fault it is, or why this is necessary. I think both sides share the blame in this, and, it will require both sides to return to a productive government. I want ideas. I want to focus on ideas that can motivate those in government right now. Before new elections. For years now, it would seem the only thing the

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    Why Structured Creativity for Business?

    I was doing a training session this past week and I was confronted by one of my students. I was giving an overview of CPS* which is a framework for structured creative problem solving. Someone asked the obvious, and in a somewhat confrontational way — Can this really help our business? The implication was that learning a structured creative process was a waste of time. It’s a good question. Why would you pay for expensive training if you believe that creativity can’t be structured? If you believe that you can’t capture that lightening in a bottle, it would be hard to see the value of a structured creative process like CPS. But you can capture that lightning in a bottle. In

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    The Value of a “Cross Domain” View

      Dr. Orin Davis (@DrOrinDavis) has written up two more short pieces — essentially his reflections from the talks of Rebecca Henderson and Dan Pink at the recent World Innovation Forum. His comments on Pink are somewhat provocative, so, be aware I do not share Orin’s views exactly. Orin is a well read academic (and practitioner as well) and he knows a lot about the wide array of literature that exists for creativity and innovation — that’s why I’ m publishing his insightful work here. His critique of Pink is interesting to me because I was not aware of who Pink borrows from, and, if he is borrowing faithfully to the original research. That said, I think there’s a real value for people

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    Why Not? Keeping the Creative Door Open

    When it comes to sparking the imagination, much is made of that lovely phrase, “What If?” It’s a good one, no doubt. Just the mention of the phrase has folks going down a more imaginative path. However, quite often, we get to the end of that imaginative path, and, good news, we have an idea in mind. We might express it, we might not. Often, instead of moving forward with self-expression, like writing it up, talking to others, or taking some action, we just let it go. Why? Lots of reasons. It might seem impractical. Or expensive. Or just hard to do. Or, we might start thinking about what everybody is going to say about it, and mercy sakes, don’t

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