Idea Management

    Seven Ways to Prepare for Effective Brainstorming

    seven ways to preparev1Want an Innovation Breakthrough?
    Prepare, Then Brainstorm

    Most brainstorming doesn’t work.

    The literature bashing brainstorming is extensive. Sessions often fail, and there are many reasons. Ideas are still needed to fill pipelines! I’m going to focus on one problem with brainstorming in this post: lack of preparation.

    The Boy Scouts have it right. Be Prepared.

    There is not enough mental preparation done with participants before brainstorming/idea generation sessions. Nor is there enough attention paid to planning and facilitating the exercises and stimulus in the session itself. Start thinking of idea generation as a project that takes a few weeks, not a one day session.

    Use Diverse Springboards to Scaffold Thinking.

    Fresh combinations of concepts are what creates breakthrough ideas. This is the essence of innovation. To get there you’ve got to put a lot of diverse data points, springboards, in front of participants. Springboards should be provided to participants in a constant stream, before, and during, the session. These are the dots to connect. Interesting conceptual dots, related to your challenge, and weirdly, un-related to the challenge are “Scaffolding.”

    “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”

    Dr. Seuss

    Take a hint from Dr. Seuss. People need to think more, more often, and over a longer period of time. Plan this! Plan for participants to think alone, together, out loud, and quietly. Plan visual elements, written and kinesthetic exercises. Have them experience the emotion behind the challenge. If this is done, the brain will make fresh combinations and innovative ideas emerge.

    Seven Ways to Better Prepare for Idea Generation:

    1. Assign at least three hours of homework over a few weeks. Have participants do research, and virtual ideation, alone.
    2. Send the research ahead! Give them time to read, absorb, and jot down ideas, alone.
    3. Get smart outsiders involved. Expand the thinking team. Broaden the range of knowledge in the project.
    4. Get the platform question right. Unfocused questions mean useless ideas. Overly focused questions means narrow thinking.
    5. Plan a live session that sparkles all day long. It’s got to be dynamic, full of variety, unique stimulus, scaffolding, and fun.
    6. Balance the day plan with introvert friendly activities. These sessions need quiet and reflection in addition to all the shouting.
    7. Get a world class facilitator. Somebody who can help you do the other six items on this list.

    Better session plans and facilitation require a person trained in those skills. The exercises you conduct with participants, before and after the session, need to stretch thinking and bring in outside concepts and trends. This is not trivial to plan, and it won’t be done well without deep background in concept blending tools and techniques. If you don’t have these skills in-house, hire me to do the session, and/or to train your people.

    Bottom line: If you don’t prepare idea generation sessions creatively, differently, and carefully — you will fail.

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    Seven Essentials of an Effective Innovation Project Manager

    Outsourcing innovation project management might be the most strategic money you spend this year. It’s not a new idea but it’s one more companies should consider. It sure beats doing nothing. See my Seven Essentials for hiring below. But first: If you’ve not got an innovation plan in the process of being executed, right now, you are treading water and will eventually drown. So what’s stopping you from kicking off an innovation initiative? I often hear resources. What I hear from top management: “we don’t have the time or resources for innovation projects, we’ll start later this year.” I get it. How is it possible to do this separate thing that requires its own focus and resources while keeping the




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    Innovation 2015 or Five Lame Excuses?

    Death or Kryptonite? I have a  vinyl record with one of those strategic skips that has it repeating — it drives me nuts — but I still play the record because I love the song so much. The song is Jimmy Olsen’s Blues by the Spin Doctors. It’s a hard rocker about the lament of Superman’s pal who has a crush on Superman’s gal. In the song Jimmy Olsen is competing with the man of steel for the affection of Miss Lois Lane. He’s got a secret weapon, a pocketful of Kryptonite. Innovation ca feel a lot like that — your competition is a big tough impossible-to-beat player like Superman. And no matter your size as an organization, you’d better be like




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    Want Innovation? Ask.

    Not everything about innovation is complicated. I recently gave a creative problem solving workshop to a group of scientists who all worked for the same outfit. It was a lively session. In addition to learning structured creative problem solving (Osborn-Parnes-Basadur framework) we did some short bits of ideation around new business concepts. This was more as a sampler than it was a real session. It wasn’t the goal of the session to reinvent their business, nonetheless, in a short time there were some relevant business growth ideas with potential on the table. An executive with the company remarked after the session that “nobody ever comes to me” with new business ideas. Talking more with this man a reason why emerged:




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    Quick & Dirty Innovation

    Many companies started 2014 with the good intention of “getting after innovation” this year. Was that your organization? How’s that going? Are you jumping for joy or singing the blues? Some companies have worked hard and consistently at innovation all this year. They started the year running and got things done. Look at the slew of announcements Apple just made (to be fair the watch took years). Other companies made a good start but got caught up in the red tape of too much process. So, it’s September now. For those of you who’ve been busy keeping up with business operations and haven’t had time to do formal innovation this year, all is not lost. Consider: Quick & Dirty Innovation (QDI) “Wake up




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    Innovation Facilitation — Death is Easy, Magic Takes Training

    Three Essentials for Magical Innovation Facilitation An essential ingredient to successful innovation projects is good facilitation. Who could argue with that? Innovation combines individual and group activities. Good group collaboration is not a given. Even individual activities need coordination with the group effort. You really need an inspiring, confident, well-trained facilitator to enable innovation. I’m talking about running and managing strategy meetings, ideation sessions, virtual sessions (using IMS), concept writing sessions, and other group work. A good facilitator makes a world of difference in the results of these group meetings and activities. And yet, in the long list of things that can go wrong in innovation initiatives, it’s often the one that is overlooked or taken for granted. The problem




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    Have You Made the Creative Choice?

    Have you made the Creative Choice? There is a ton of written material about creativity and innovation. I make an effort to keep up with the waves of literature — there’s a new methodology, a new process, fresh brain research, best practices, anti-best practices, etc. Some of this literature is quite good. There is also stuff about how creativity relates to mysticism and spirituality, also quite interesting. Finally there is also a good deal of useless, boring drivel that only reinforces unhelpful mythology about creativity. If you intend to be more creative and to use that capacity to innovate, I would encourage you to read widely and make your own judgments, but don’t get lost in all the words, don’t




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    The Year is Half Over, Where is Your Innovation?

    The Year is Half Over, Where is Your Innovation? Underway? Running like a Swiss Watch? Missing in Action? Innovation Peeps: The year is nearly half over. Okay, in a month it will be officially half over. I’m doing this with seven months left this year so that you might get a running start on an innovation initiative — an “FEI Cycle” that you can complete by year end. FEI stands for Front-End-of-Innovation. This is the perfect time to take a half-year checkpoint on your innovation efforts because there is still time to get some significant work done in 2014. On July 1, you’ll have six months left to get something done, or, complete something already underway. Consider the next thirty days your




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    Training is an Innovation Accelerant

    Creativity 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




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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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