A fortnightly newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation
Tuesday, 15 March 2005
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your weekly newsletter on
creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
As always, if you have news about creativity, imagination, ideas, or innovation
please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103. Your
comments and feedback are also always welcome.
Information on unsubscribing, archives, reprinting articles, etc can be found
at the end of this newsletter.
TEN CRAZY THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR COMPANY THIS WEEK
I've often talked in this newsletter about long term issues in corporate innovation;
issues like establishing a culture of innovation in your organisation, encouraging
risk taking and so on. Today, just for fun, let's look at some very short term,
possibly quite crazy ideas for boosting your company's creativity.
Rearrange the physical organisation of your office by moving people around
randomly. Rather than put accounting people together with other accounting
people; sales people with sales people; operational people with operational
people and so on, mix people up so that an accountant might have her desk
next to a saleswoman and a logistics specialist might have his desk next
to a research scientist. Better still rearrange the physical organisation
every quarter or so. While this will result in some communication inefficiency
– people in the same division do, after all, often need to work together
- it will certainly bring about more varied internal networking and breed
new ideas as people from different departments work together, get to know
each other and share ideas.
Hold staff meetings in varied locations. Why must you always have staff
meetings in your boring meeting rooms? Why not hold them in a public library,
a nearby park, a children's playground, a pub, in a swimming pool, or any
other location that is distinctly unbusinesslike? The unfamiliar surroundings
will surely inspire people. To make the unusual locations more effective,
tie them into the meeting somehow. If your company is having financial difficulties,
hold a meeting in a swimming pool and discuss the importance of remaining
Put a person with no relevant experience in charge of a project. Need to
do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of a
new product concept? Why have a marketing person to do it when an engineer
can do it completely differently? Admittedly, the engineer will probably
not produce a typical SWOT analysis – and might even miss a few key
issues a marketing expert would automatically see. But an engineer would
almost certainly take a different approach and look at the problem in a
different way than the experienced marketeer would. And looking at a problem
from a different perspective is certain to produce different, creative solutions.
Run an ideas campaign (or competition) to come up with the craziest idea
for a particular issue. And then provide the winner(s) with Euro 10,000
(approx: US$13,000) to actually fund their idea. Sure, the project may fail.
But the winners will gain more than Euro 10,000 worth of training and discover
a lot of great ideas along the way. Moreover, crazy ideas work more often
than you might think – and the result could be a substantial return
on your Euro 10,000 investment.
Ban e-mail and telephone use for internal communications for a day. Force
people to get up and visit each other to discuss ideas. Moving around shakes
up the brain cells and helps people think more clearly. Face to face conversations
are usually in more depth than e-mail or telephone conversations. Physically
walking across the office to talk to one person often results in meeting
and speaking with several other people along the way; people who can bring
new ideas to old problems and issues.
Come up with a running theme for the day, such as “cats” or
“drinks” or “baking a cake” and apply the theme
as a metaphor every where possible. For example, you select “baking
a cake” as your theme for the day. Every project that day should then
somehow tie into baking a cake. The sales people preparing a presentation
should base it around the theme of baking a cake. The R&D people developing
a prototype for a new product should think about baking cakes while brainstorming
ideas for the prototype. And so on.
Get an eight year old child to act as a consultant for a day, offering
advice on all issues you work on that day. While the child's advice may
lack the weight of experience of a seasoned professional, its comparative
naivety will doubtless be inspirational and lead to new ideas that an experienced
professional would be blind to.
For one week, use toys instead of PowerPoint slides as a presentation tool.
For example, if you have to present your ideas on a new product launch,
use a big box of Lego or building blocks as your presentation tool. It will
force you to think about how you present data visually and will certainly
capture the attention of participants in the meeting.
Apply “How would Winnie the Pooh [or George Washington or Queen Elizabeth
I or Dagwood Bumstead or Jesus or whomever] tackle this problem” to
all problems for a week. For example, if you are preparing a project proposal
for a client, ask yourself: “How would Winnie-the-Pooh prepare and
deliver this proposal.
- Actively encourage that everyone take public transportation to work. Not
only is this great for the environment, it is also good for the collective
mind of your employees. If they are not driving to work,they can read, think,
make notes and take more time to notice and be inspired by the scenery as
they go to work.
JENNI IDEA MANAGEMENT VIRTUAL SOFTWARE VERSION 2.0 RELEASED
We are just finishing up a major upgrade of Jenni idea management virtual software
and we are rather excited about it. Version 2.0 is campaign based and decentralises
the idea management process which will result in more effective and more focused
To understand the advantages of a campaigned based idea management solution,
it is useful to look at the alternative. Most idea management software collects
ideas in a vast pool of ideas. The software also provides tools that allow users
to develop and evaluate ideas. Many tools also provide implementation management
and archiving as well.
The problem with such solutions is that in any medium to large company which
promotes innovation, the pool of ideas quickly overfills with ideas. The person
in charge of managing ideas can soon be overwhelmed and the idea management
Management cannot handle all the ideas – even though there are many brilliant
ones in the pool – and staff see that management is not doing anything
with their ideas and so quickly become demotivated.
Our campaign based tool, on the other hand, allows designated users (such as
all heads of department or all senior managers) to create and manage their own
ideas campaigns. Thus, if the marketing manager wants creative ideas for a new
product launch, she can set up a campaign, limit it to one month's duration,
promote it (via Jenni) and launch the campaign.
As good ideas come in and are built up (using Jenni's collaboration functionality),
the marketing manager can evaluate them using Jenni's criteria based evaluation
tool. Or she can wait until the end of the campaign and send all the best ideas
to evaluation simultaneously.
At the end of the campaign, all ideas, evaluations and implementations are
automatically archived for future reference, although ideas can still be evaluated
The campaign based idea management structure provides several other advantages:
The campaign concept is more motivating than a pool of ideas. People learn
about new campaigns, know their time is limited and so are pressured to
think about and provide ideas before the campaign is finished.
Regularly varying campaigns stimulates people's minds and keeps people
interested in the idea management programme.
Ideas are more focused towards specific problems.
Nevertheless, some great ideas come as surprises. So, we recommend companies
set up an on-going campaign for general ideas which do not fit under any existing
Jenni allows you to have multiple concurrent campaigns of varying length, as
well as on-going campaigns.
Jenni also allows you to customise your campaign so that only people in certain
geographic regions, in certain departments or at certain access levels can participate.
Finally Jenni version 2.0 provides a promotional tool that lets you promote,
via Jenni or your own e-mail client, your ideas campaign to your colleagues.
Jenni version 2.0 is so new we haven't even updated the web pages yet. But
you are special and that's why we have told you first.
for more information, or contact
me for more information on how Jenni idea management virtual software can
provide an efficient and effective tool for boosting your corporate innovation.
CONCEPT -> PROTOTYPE -> PRODUCTION
The car industry has a long history of producing radical concept cars which
they show off at motor shows. Concept cars tend to be futuristic, exciting to
look at and have more features than a top of the line Lexus. However, they are
usually concept only. The concept car itself seldom goes into production. But
many of the features of a concept car will eventually be added to the manufacturer's
regular production cars.
After building a concept car, the next step is to build a prototype which is
a car that is expected to go into production, albeit with a number of modifications
before it finally finds its way to the showroom. The prototype is tested in
all kinds of ways, from drive-ability, to performance, to customer reaction
and more. With each test, modifications are made – or at least noted -
until the prototype is ready for production.
Finally, the production car is made and sold to people like you and me.
This great system probably explains why over the past 30 years, cars have gained
so many more innovative features than have refrigerators. Refrigerators and
other products normally skip the concept stage and development begins at the
prototype stage. Prototypes are tested and a product is developed.
Unfortunately, since the prototype is expected more or less to resemble the
final product, prototypes are not usually that innovative. Even if there are
numerous brainstorming sessions prior to building the prototype, the most radical
ideas are usually disposed of before the prototype is built, with excuses like:
“our customers don't need that”; “it would add too much to
the final cost”; “our competitors don't do that, why should we?”
and so on.
In fact, concept vehicles are excellent tools for trying out radical new ideas.
Concept vehicles permit vast creative freedom at the design stage, allow you
to see how innovative new features will work and let you gauge customer reaction
to those features. In addition, concept vehicles can generate a lot of “excitement”,
which translates into positive publicity.
So, the next time you are developing a new product. Don't start with the prototype.
Build a concept vehicle first. It will be well worth the investment.
GREAT CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION ARTICLES
I've run across a number of interesting creativity and innovation articles
this past fortnight. I'd like to share them with you...
1. How to Be Creative by Hugh Macleod (http://changethis.com/6.HowToBeCreative/download
– PDF file) is a presentation in the form of a PDF document on how to
be creative. It's long, but worth reading, particularly if you have some creative
ideas in the back of your mind that you are aching to bring to fruition.
2. Rainbow Coalition of the Mind (http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,66770,00.html/wn_ascii)
Synesthesia is a rare condition where people perceive sensual input in different
ways than the rest of us, for example: “ The number 7 may look green,
or the color red might smell of soap. G-flat on the piano might look like broken
glass.” People with synesthesia are often very creative, which shouldn't
be surprising. Sensing the world via different senses than everyone else is
sure to bring a unique perception of all kinds of things.
3. The Rise of Innovation in Asia (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item.jhtml?id=4676&t=globalization&nl=y)
Asia is not just a cheap production shop for the west. In fact, Asia is quickly
moving up the value chain and will soon be innovating as well as the USA.
4. The Rise of the Creative Consumer (http://www.economist.com/business/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3749354)
Customers are sharing innovative ideas with producers and producers are implementing
those ideas to make better products. An interesting read – and if you
need tools to capture your customers' ideas, take a look at Jenni IdeasCampaign
a software tool you rent to harness the innovation of your customers, your workforce
or any group of people.
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Report 103 is edited by Jeffrey Baumgartner. And
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