Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in
Tuesday, 2 August 2005
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your fortnightly 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.
“We need fresh ideas for the Acme proposal. Let's all sit down and brainstorm
ideas some time this week.” How often have you heard something like that
at your office? How often have the creative ideas of the brainstorming session
been implemented? All too often, hastily planned brainstorming sessions bring
up a lot of good ideas that somehow never get used, while the boring kinds of
ideas you are trying to get away from seem to be used again and again.
One reason for this is the lack of an innovation plan. I am not talking about
a grand plan for your entire corporate strategy (if you are interested in such
a grand plan, take a look at the Innovation Battle Plan at http://www.jpb.com/battleplan/).
Rather, I am talking about developing an innovation plan for a single issue
If you want to maximise the creativity of the ideas you generate and ensure
the best ideas are implemented, you need an innovation plan. To make things
easier, I've created an Innovation Plan Worksheet which you can download via
(PDF document; 17kb). As this article will describe the Innovation Plan, you
may want to download it now as a reference.
The first step of your innovation plan is to state the goal or problem. We'll
look in detail at how to effectively state your problem in an upcoming issue
of Report 103, but let us review the basics here. Imagine you are a product
manager at a mobile telephony company and want to introduce new services to
Before putting stating a problem like “new services”, you need
to think about your goal in a little more detail. Do you want to develop new
revenue streams for your company or do you want to add additional free services?
Are you targeting a specific group – such as business users or teenagers?
Or should determining the target group be part of your goal? Bear in mind that
I have used the term “goal” here. Think not just about what kind
of ideas you want – but the goal of the ideas. Finally, be sure you express
the goal in a way that is clear to everyone on your team.
You also need to establish how far you will take the innovation. Are you simply
preparing a proposal for management or will you be responsible for the entire
project life-cycle or does the limit of your responsibility fall somewhere in
Once the goal is stated, you should also consider several other issues...
1) Participants: who will participate in your innovation plan? Can you
solicit ideas from the entire organisation or will you be restricted to a specific
project team? Who can you call upon for evaluation and pre-implementation?
2) Budget: what is the budget for capturing and developing this idea?
3) Resources: what resources will be available for capturing and developing
this idea? What tools do you need? Can you hire facilitators or an ideas campaign
tool? Can you hire facilities for brainstorming? What internal resources will
be available to you?
4) Timeframe: how much time do you have to capture and develop your
5) Reward(s): are you offering any rewards for ideas? You might want
to offer a small reward for the best ideas. One well known company offers small
cash rewards and dinner coupons to people who contribute exceptional ideas.
Others offer gifts, points or recognition. If you are working with a relatively
small team, you might consider rewarding the entire team at the completion of
the product – or at major milestones if the project is long-term.
If you like to push the envelop and have fun, consider adopting a theme for
this innovation plan. Themes are not necessary, but can be an effective means
of focusing creativity in new ways and tying together various aspects of an
innovation plan. Keeping to our example of a mobile telephony company, you could
adopt the theme of “amusement parks”. In other words, you would
use amusement parks as a metaphor when generating ideas, implementing ideas
and even naming new services that you devise. This doesn't mean that everything
has to be about amusement parks. Rather, amusement parks are simply a focus
of the team's thinking.
Idea generation methods...
Now, you are ready to plan how you will generate ideas. Don't limit yourself
to brainstorming, there are several effective team ideation approaches worth
Brainstorming: is best when time is limited or the team is relatively small
and in one location (although software tools like our Sylvia – http://www.jpb.com/sylvia/
allow brainstorming between people in various locations). Brainstorming, in
a nutshell, is getting a group of people together in a space and shouting out
ideas for a limited time period. People build on each others' ideas and the
creative energy pushes people to think more creatively and propose more radical
Ideas campaigns: are best when there is more time or the team is large and
dispersed across several locations. An ideas campaign is rather like a long,
drawn out brainstorming session where people come in to the campaign from time
to time, share an idea or two, build on other people's ideas and then leave.
(Our Jenni ideas campaign - http://www.jpb.com/jenni/ is the best tool for setting
up and managing an ideas campaign. Moreover, you can even rent Jenni for a single
limited ideas campaign). An ideas campaign usually lasts from two to six weeks.
Experimentation: is best when ideas are technical in nature. Experimentation
is basically a matter of putting together various configurations and seeing
how they work. Experimenting would not be an effective approach for our mobile
telephony company example of developing a new service. On the other hand, if
the innovation plan was about improving the efficiency of sending multimedia
data across a GSM network, experimenting would probably be an important part
of your innovation plan.
Other approaches to ideation can include outsourcing creativity to another
company, buying the rights to an established idea or buying a company that has
innovative products you would like to be able to offer your customers.
Once you start generating ideas, bear in mind that there is a tendency in teams
to embrace the first creative idea that you capture. This can be a mistake.
Rather you should push that first creative idea further and see if you can make
it even more creative. At the same time, you should push people to come up with
more creative ideas. This pushing for further creativity is important and should
be included in your innovation plan.
Pushing ideas further could be a matter of doing brainstorming sessions on
your best ideas, in order to develop them further. Alternatively, you could
ask people to think about the best ideas overnight and give you more developed
ideas in the morning. “Sleeping” on an idea is an excellent way
to push it.
Pushing people's creativity further is about positive feedback, explicitly
encouraging more radical thinking and inspiration. Inspiration includes all
kinds of things, such as: bringing in professional brainstorming facilitators;
taking the team to an art museum or ballet performance; participating in activities
that open the mind; and using alternative brainstorming approaches (see back
issues of Report 103 at
http://www.jpb.com/report103/archives.php for examples of alternative brainstorming
Finally, you need to allot a specific time frame for the idea generation phase.
Once you have captured some good ideas, you need to evaluate them to determine
which are worth taking further. The 5x5 criteria matrix is probably the most
efficient initial evaluation method (see http://www.jpb.com/articles/article_evaluation.php?topic=creative
for more details and a link to a free 5x5 criteria matrix evaluation tool).
To do a 5x5 criteria matrix, you simply determine five criteria by which you
can rank promising ideas. You then look at each idea, determine how well it
meets each criterion and grant it 0-5 points for that criterion. Once you are
finished, add up the points and you will have overall point scores for each
idea. This is a very good basis for determining which ideas should go on to
the next stage.
Other people prefer open discussion meetings for determining which ideas to
take further. These can also be effective, although such meetings are usually
less efficient and less objective than criteria based evaluation – at
least for the initial evaluation. We recommend that you have an open discussion
based meeting AFTER the criteria based evaluation in order to clarify any outstanding
issues and discuss how promising ideas could be improved further based on the
You also need to allot some time to the evaluation phase.
If you are not involved in implementing the idea, the chances are your responsibility
will end with making a report to your superior or to a project development team.
If so, you can readily prepare a report based on the top ideas and their evaluations.
If you are involved in the implementation, on the other hand, you will want
to go directly to the next step.
Pre-implementation is a preliminary action, such as building a business case,
doing market research, making a prototype or running a limited trial in order
to test an idea.
You will doubtless already have standard pre-implementation methods in your
company for developing ideas into products or services. Nevertheless, it is
important to include the pre-implementation in your innovation plan. You also
need to determine how much time to allot the pre-implementation.
By now, you should have a small number of very good and well tested ideas.
It is time to implement them.
By developing such a structured innovation plan for specific projects, you
can look forward to more creative ideas and a higher level of implementation
of those ideas.
AUGUST IS A GOOD TIME TO BE CREATIVE IN EUROPE
Here in Europe, where most employees get four weeks of paid holiday time and
schools are closed during July and August, business comes to a virtual standstill
this month. Almost everyone takes a holiday of a week or two (or three or four)
in August. As a result, offices are half full, arranging meetings of several
decision makers is well neigh impossible and closing sales simply doesn't happen.
On one hand, it can be frustrating to workaholic small business owner/managers
On the other hand, it is a great time to think and be creative. It is a time
to push your ideas further than you normally would and explore how those ideas
could be implemented in your company. It is a time to run trials of crazy ideas
and develop proposals to sell those ideas to your colleagues, business partners
So, if you are one of those Europeans in the office during the quiet August
months. Don't despair of the boredom. Innovate!
GOOD ARTICLE ON OPERATIONAL INNOVATION
Harvard Business School Working Knowledge has run an interesting article titled:
“Six Steps to Operational Innovation”. It is worth reading.
The imagination club continues to grow and share ideas on a variety of challenges.
If you like having ideas and sharing ideas with other creative people, join
the imagination club. For more information and to subscribe, please visit http://www.jpb.com/imagination/about.php.
Report 103 is a complimentary weekly electronic newsletter from Bwiti bvba
of Belgium (a jpb.com company: http://www.jpb.com). Archives and subscription
information can be found at http://www.jpb.com/report103/
Report 103 is edited by Jeffrey Baumgartner and is published on the first and
third Tuesday of every month.
You may forward this copy of Report 103 to anyone, provided you
forward it in its entirety and do not edit it in any way. If you wish to reprint
only a part of Report 103, please contact Jeffrey Baumgartner.
Contributions and press releases are welcome. Please contact Jeffrey in the