Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in
Tuesday, 19 June 2007
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.
INNOVATION VS. THE PROCESS OF INNOVATION
Some years ago, there was a woman who did cleaning and housework for us. She
seemed especially keen on cleaning the tile floor in the kitchen and almost
every day scrubbed it.
But one night, after a few weeks of this, I noticed that my feet were sticking
to the floor as I walked around in the kitchen. Moreover, I realised that this
had been going on for some time. So, I got out a mop, filled a bucket with water
and floor cleaner and mopped. It quickly became obvious that the floor was filthy.
I went through several buckets of water and periodically had to get down on
my hands and knees to scrub away dried food – or worse – before
I finished. And our kitchen was small.
It soon became clear that this curious woman was far keener on the process
of cleaning the floor than on actually making the floor clean.
Unnecessarily Complex Processes
I see the same thing happening in a number of organisations. They are far keener
on implementing a process of innovation than they are on innovating. Occasionally
when prospective clients look at Jenni, they will be uninterested in her collaborative
idea development tools, flexible evaluation tools or ease of use. But they will
be fascinated by reporting tools and be disappointed that Jenni does not offer
even more excessively detailed reporting tools.(On the other hand, research
and development people tend to love Jenni because it doesn't bog them down in
unnecessary process, rather it provides a simple to use, yet comprehensive tool
set that allows them to start innovating right away, yet still provides reporting
tools to keep senior management happy For more info, see http://www.jpb.com/jenni/)
I have also looked at highly complex innovation processes implemented by some
companies – often guided by high priced innovation consultants whose hourly
rates ensure they get rich supporting their complex systems.
Unfortunately, while many such companies are very good at successfully implementing
complex processes, they are not so good at successfully implementing innovative
ideas. That's because, like the curious cleaning woman, they are far keener
on the process of innovating than they are on actually innovating.
Why Is This the Case?
I believe the main reason many companies set up highly complex, yet usually
ineffective, innovation management process is the MBA (master of business education)
degree. MBA courses teach a highly analytical approach to business that is measurable
in all kinds of ways. It involves testing every assumption and following proven
models. And all of this works fine for many business processes. Marketers need
to understand their customers, their customers' needs, the market and the competition
in order to establish an effective marketing strategy. Financial people need
to measure financial data in order to understand what's happening with the money
and how to organise it effectively. After all, in a billion dollar turn-over
company, an improvement of a half a percent on earnings equates to $5 million
But, innovation is not like other business processes. It is not as predictable
as market trends or finances. It requires a lot more experimentation, trial
and error and freedom to explore new ideas.
A company that requires employees go through a time consuming 24 step process
in order to submit a single idea is ensuring a lot of employees will not submit
ideas. An organisation that requires that employees immediately evaluate ideas
according to rigid criteria sets ensure that employees will reject most of their
ideas – particularly the most creative ideas. A firm that demands an in-depth
report be submitted for every idea will turn people off submitting ideas as
they won't want to have to deal with the associated additional administration.
Such companies may know: how long it takes to develop an idea, what time of
day most ideas occur, how many people collaborated on each idea, the word count
of the idea and the detailed feedback of the 17 committees which reviewed the
idea. They will have in-depth reports on ideas, ideas campaigns and idea submitters.
Every employee will be mapped to some kind of innovation assessment tool and
every idea costed to the nearest penny.
What they will not have is innovative ideas. Their creative thinkers will much
prefer being creative over participating in an innovation process which is more
about administration than being creative. The committees will, as committees
inevitably do, reject the most creative ideas as being too risky, water down
the moderately creative ideas in order to reduce risk and approve the least
creative ideas as they are least risky. And, in the rare event a creative idea
does make it through the system, the resulting innovation takes so long to hit
the market that it is no longer very innovative.
It should be noted that here I am looking at the business analytical process
of innovation. There is another process that is critical to innovation. It can
also be very time consuming and sometimes rather costly. It's called experimentation
or trial and error. For instance, in inventing the motorised aeroplane the Wright
brothers tested many hundreds of ideas. Indeed, they tried over 200 wing shapes
in their make-shift wind tunnel in order to find the right shape for a steerable
glider (which eventually led to the motorised aeroplane).
Indeed, most successful, innovative new products have a long history of mistakes,
bad assumptions and failed ideas behind them. Moreover, such a process of trial
and error is essential for big innovation.
But, the process of trial and error experimentation involves actually being
creative and innovating, rather than filling in complex forms, compiling long
reports and presenting lots of numbers to a committee.
That said, of course a certain amount of analytics and reporting regarding
the innovation process is essential. But it should not get in the way of the
actual innovation. Otherwise your process will be more successful than its goals!
I am delighted that this week's issue of Report 103 includes not one, but three
quest writers who have authored two articles for you. I think that's terrific.
Not only do you get quality articles from other experts in the creativity and
innovation field, but my work is also made easier! More about the writers below.
If you would like to contribute an article to Report 103, please let me know.
If the article has already been written, feel free to forward it to me for consideration.
If you wish to write a new article, I suggest you e-mail me a summary before
you begin writing.
- Articles must be..
- About creativity and innovation
- Publishable without special formatting or images (images can be included
on the web version of this newsletter).
- Yours to distribute (ie. you have copyright or authorisation to reproduce)
Now here is the first of this week's guest writers...
by Randah Tahar
Creativity can be taught, nurtured, and enhanced. It does not belong solely
to the artist among us, and is certainly not genetically limited to the gifted.
In a series of articles, posts and quick tips, I hope to expand the creative
capacity of non profits and social enterprises and provide a new tool to help
spark their inner ingenuity.
Live Brainstorming Sessions
Every organization uses it. Every manager, board member, director, volunteer,
participant or member has played a part in it at least once a year. We are talking
Personally, I have been in so many to the point that I get a headache afterwards
from all the thinking about how to get out of them. Just think for a second
how many sessions have you been into that you can consider effective.
Brainstorming is a powerful tool, if used correctly, it can enhance any decision
a manager is ready to take. But just like any power tool, you must follow the
instructions on how to put it together and use it, else you risk doing a bad
job, or worse, harming yourself.
Take your mind back to the last brainstorming session you attended. What do
you think was good about it? What did it lack? Did you contribute to it? Get
something out of it?
In this article, I give you 10 guidelines to conduct a successful brainstorming
1. Come prepared. And invite others to do so too.
If you notify all the participants 2 days in advance of the purpose of your
session, and ask them to come ready with one or two ideas, you will have a head-start.
People won’t take those precious first awkward moments to set their inner
2. Invite others to the party.
Yes the team members are the only ones concerned with the longer working hours,
but if you invite people from other departments, some participants or board
members, you might be surprised at what they can offer you. Maybe your colleague
has access to technology that will cut in half the time you need to write your
report, your participant has extra hours to volunteer with clean-up, or the
director was so impressed that she decided to increase your budget to add another
worker! Throw in some munchies and drinks to feed the tummies as you drain their
3. Think and re-think the real issue.
Tackle the problem, not the symptoms. Re-writing that question or issue will
open new lines of thought and increase the quality of the ideas. For example,
if the session’s title is: “How can we involve board members in
fund raising”, a new statement – such as “How can we make
the board member involved in a particular program” – will add new
dimensions to your ideas. Play with the statement for a while before settling
on one to start the session.
In a previous workshop I conducted in creative thinking, the group stated that
a problem they faced in their daily work was lack of mental stimulation. I asked
them to state the question once, and then change the verb each time. Following
are some of the results:
Q1: In what ways can we occupy our minds?
Q2: In what ways can we get more information and knowledge?
Q3: In what ways can we become more interested?
Q4: In what ways can we make our work more exciting?
Q5: In what ways can we engage ourselves?
Each question will require a different thinking mode, resulting in multiple-levelled
solutions for the same problem.
4. Record as you go.
Don’t forget a single word. Assign a note taker to write everything in
front of everyone – to enhance each others’ ideas – and give
that person a chance to contribute as well.
5. Defer judgement.
Imagine a pearl diver, plunging in the middle of the sea only to collect one
oyster, swim back to surface, straight to shore and open the oyster, only to
find nothing. Then he must put on his suit again and paddle back for a second
You do the same thing when you stop at each idea to evaluate it.
In one of the sessions I attended, three out of five suggestions I proposed
were rejected on the spot by the facilitator, “We don’t have enough
money for that”, or “We cannot designate a worker for that”.
Not only was I put off and in so refused to participate any more, the group
lost the opportunity to enhance my ideas to better fit their needs. Other members
didn’t propose any ideas out of fear of being rejected and the talk remained
between the facilitator and director.
A brainstorming is just this: storming! In a real climate storm, you don’t
stop running to assess the damage. You keep running until you reach a dead-end
or your time runs up. But unlike a real weather condition, you have options
in this room-temperature setting: you can re-state the problem to open a new
stream of thoughts, or schedule another session to follow up.
Jot down everything! and then search for your treasure among those ideas.
6. Become a generator machine.
Never, NEVER, stop when you feel you have reached a suitable or good solution.
You risk loosing a better one that might come in the next 4 minutes. Keep moving,
with new fresh ideas or enhancing previous ones when you run out of juice. Radical
and crazy ideas must not be confined in your brain cells. Get them all out on
the table – and blackboard – as well.
At a non profit that ran a small video store, a crazy idea came in our brainstorming
session on how to increase revenue: rent movies free of charge. Thankfully,
that idea was not rejected, but worked with as is. The store decided to test
In a corner, a TV was set with lots of carpet space. It showed movies for free
but sold popcorns, drinks, pizzas, and cushions. Soon sales took off and they
learned something new. Now they rent the movies (for money) but provide a tested
menu to order with every rented movie depending on its type (horror, comedy,
drama) and it worked!
Set a timer (one hour) and continue to storm ideas.
7. Force large quotas.
Don’t stop because time ran out. Type the written ideas and send them
to the team and others who didn’t attend the session. Ask each to add
2 more ideas to reach the 100 quota before moving to the next step of evaluating
8. Elaborate and improve.
Connect two or more ideas to create a combined one, modify a plan by looking
at it from different angles, the workers’, participants’, sponsors’,
board members’, funders’, and other organizations’.
9. Enhance visuals.
On your flip chart you write the words that describe the proposed solution,
but that is not your only option. Use sketches (my favorite is the stick man),
drawings, color coding, arrows, triangles, stars and crooked lines to connect
the thoughts. You will appreciate the masterpiece once you’re done. You
might even consider framing it.
10. Threaten yourself.
Why not make everybody sit upright and tense by suggesting more government cuts?
You can envision your problem from a different perspective by suggesting a reaction
to a problem that increases the adrenaline in many non profits dramatically.
For example: instead of stating “In what ways may we improve our fund-raising
efforts”, try asking “In what ways could the government shift their
strategies that would really harm us”? or “How can we work so bad
that we loose all the current funding”?. Here you list all the mishaps
you can do – have fun imagining – in order to think of new venues,
then implement the opposite ideas. You will get much more real – straight
from the heart – ideas using this tool.
About the Author
Randah Taher is a project developer and trainer who worked in Montreal for
7 years before moving to Toronto where she currently resides. She works with
learning, non profit organizations, and social enterprises, and is involved
in projects concerning youth, education, and community revitalization. She consults
and trains groups in creative thinking tools, innovative strategic management,
restructuring and program development.
Randah is the founder and coordinator of “My
Arabic Story”, a cultural hub with worldwide volunteers, telling folktales
stories through storytelling, puppet shows, and other media. (www.myarabicstory.org).
She is currently a graduate student at Buffalo State College getting her degree
in Masters in Creative studies, while working as a freelancer consultant and
trainer, and writes occasionally in “Contagious
THE WAY WE HANDLE IDEAS IS CRITICAL
by Chuck Yorke & Jim Garrick
Excerpt from their book: “Yes Innovation, Everyday Improvement Everyday
by Infinity press.
It sure seems that a vast majority of the ideas for improvement that usually
come in from staff members are unworkable. We perceive that some are just downright
terrible ideas, although once in a while we find gems that may make up for all
the bad ideas.
We believe that this is just part of the process and that it finally leads
to those winning ideas and a culture in an organization where the staff are
highly motivated and feel very much a part and parcel of what the business is
Sadly, this isn’t true and it causes many leaders to give up too early
when it comes to any program that is designed to motivate staff into making
regular contributions of ideas for improvement.
Why is it then that we all readily accept the fact that any prospector who
wants to be successful has to sift through a lot of dirt and grime to find the
gold but expect only pure ore from our people, the first time around, in idea
generation? Actually why do we expect idea generation to be any different from
other aspects of life? Even the R&D departments of many Fortune 500 companies
will usually handle many duds before they finally find a winner.
As a matter of fact, how you treat the ideas that you receive from your employees
will usually have a major impact on the rate and quality of ideas you will continue
to receive in the future. We feel that one great idea alone can pay all the
R&D costs for the last 20 years and the next 20, and transform your organization
to unimaginable levels of success. A single idea can have a massive impact.
Our focus however should not be on those one-in-a-million ideas. To engage
our people we need to focus on small ideas that make each person’s work
easier and more interesting. Once we tap that creativity, small incremental
improvements will motivate each individual and one day someone may have one
of those great, huge, game changing ideas. Just don’t bet on it. That
big idea can’t be our focus, the small ideas that allow people to participate
in improving their work is what moves organizations forward.
About the Authors
Chuck Yorke assists companies in engaging their people to more the business
forward. He is co-author of ?All You Gotta Do Is Ask,? a book which explains
how to promote large numbers of ideas from employees.Chuck may be reached at
Jim Garrick is an Industry Consultant with FedEx Services. Mr. Garrick is a
Lean process improvement professional with over twenty years of consumer packaged
goods, HVAC, automotive, and consulting experience. .
We are offering a new leasing model for Jenni idea management: Jenni Leasing.
You get all the benefits of our traditional, comprehensive, full service package
combined with the emotional security that your ideas are sitting on your firm's
We normally 'sell' Jenni as a Software as a Service (SaaS) or as we sometimes
like to say: Software as a FULL Service (SaaFS). This includes installing Jenni
on a highly secure server maintained in the most secure server farm available
and providing you and your colleagues with secure 24/7 access to your Jenni
via the Internet. In addition, you get lightening fast, friendly and professional
support when you need it (but you won't need it very much with Jenni) and even
innovation coaching by telephone and e-mail at no additional cost (indeed, just
last month I personally advised a top global snack food manufacturer on how
to frame four innovation challenges which formed the basis of four successful
ideas campaigns on Jenni – all as part of our SaaS package). In addition,
you get maintenance and upgrades. All of this is included in the basic subscription
fee for Jenni (if you are curious, you will find our fees on http://www.jpb.com/jenni/pricing.php
– we aren't ashamed of our prices!)
In spite of this full service, high security package, some clients are simply
not happy about having their data secured on a server not controlled by their
IT department (ironically, some clients particularly like the fact that Jenni
and their data is stored on a server not controlled by their IT department!).
Sometimes, businesses have rules about data remaining on corporate servers.
Sometimes people are just uncomfortable with the idea of their data on a server
controlled by us. On a couple of occasions, prospective clients have even asked
us: “What is to prevent you from looking at our innovative ideas and selling
them to our competitors?” The obvious answer to that question is that
that it would be professional suicide to do so. From a legal perspective, our
contact with each client includes guarantees regarding intellectual property.
Nevertheless, as much as we favour SaaFS as a means of ensuring our clients'
innovation programmes are a success, we appreciate some clients need their data
to reside on their server. Hence we have developed what we call Jenni Leasing
or Software as a Leased Service (SaaLS if you like acronyms). In this case,
we install Jenni on your server using a secure remote connection. We maintain
Jenni and install upgrades on your server regularly. In addition, we provide
the support and innovation coaching services our clients love, all in a fixed
price package based on the number of users of your implementation of Jenni.
The result is very nearly the service level we provide clients of our traditional
SaaS implementations of Jenni combined with the emotional security of knowing
all your data is stored in your IT facilities. The only limitation is that we
are reliant upon your IT staff to provide some support and upgrade services
on the server itself. And, of course, we cannot be responsible for problems
that may result from your server being down, non-Jenni maintenance and other
You can find more information
about Jenni Leasing at http://www.jpb.com/jenni/lsaas.php ; Leasing
pricing at http://www.jpb.com/jenni/pricing.php ; and Jenni
idea management software service in general at http://www.jpb.com/jenni/index.php
After many months of inactivity, we have kick-started the Imagination
Club and it is active once again.
The Imagination Club is an e-mail forum for playing with ideas, responding
to creative challenges and talking about creativity and innovation. Members
are from all over the world and are a truly fascinating group. A recent round
of introductions humbled me!
To join the imagination club, just go to http://www.jpb.com/imagination/
and enter your name in the field.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Have got an opinion about any of the articles you have read in Report 103?
Do you simply want to talk innovation? If so, please e-mail me! I have meet
a number of fascinating people and have even made a few good friends as the
result of correspondence with readers like you. Contact
LATEST IN BUSINESS INNOVATION
If you want to keep up with the latest news in business innovation, I recommend
Chuck Frey's INNOVATIONweek
(http://www.innovationtools.com/News/subscribe.asp). It's the only e-newsletter
that keeps you up-to-date on all of the latest innovation news, research, trends,
case histories of leading companies and more. And it's the perfect complement
to Report 103!
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