Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in
Wednesday 5 October 2011
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your twice-monthly (or thereabouts)
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.
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at the end of this newsletter.
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SELECTING A SOLUTION
Most ideation activities result in the generation of a number of ideas. However,
in most cases, only one idea – or a collection of ideas combined into
one bigger idea – will actually be implemented. This does not mean that
any one of the solutions is actually the right solution. Only that one solution
is chosen. Unfortunately, the designers of many an innovation initiative fail
to consider this simple fact. As a result, the chosen idea is often not in the
best interest of the individual or the organisation running the initiative.
Worse, in many cases no idea is ever implemented.
This is why it is important at the very earliest stages of any idea generation
activity (be it a local brainstorming session, an anticonventional thinking
action, a corporate suggestion scheme or a massive on-line brainstorm using
special software – such as ours, see advert below) to decide what kind
of ideas you will choose to implement. With this preparation you can do three
Define evaluation criteria that can be used to choose the idea or ideas
Communicate to brainstormers the kinds of ideas you want.
Prepare mechanisms that facilitate the implementation of the chosen ideas.
Let’s look at each of these points in a little more detail:
The biggest mistake you can make in any idea generation exercise is to select
ideas based on votes for the “best idea”. As we have seen in the
past, research has shown that voting in on-line suggestion schemes, ideas campaigns
or any similar system is counter-productive. Voting merely identifies the first
popular ideas submitted to the system and often hides the most creative and
The second biggest mistake you can make is simply to decide to select the best
idea. “Best” is a vague word. In any social group, whether it be
a team, a company or a government institution, “best” would typically
connotate an idea that most conforms to the group’s norms. For instance,
if your office is furnished with Ikea furniture, the best office chair will
be a nice Ikea chair or at least one that looks like an Ikea chair and fits
the Ikea style of your office.
Compare that with the most comfortable chair, the most durable chair or the
most original chair. If any of these were your criteria for chair selection,
your choice would be different to your “best” choice and, ironically,
would prove to be a better choice than the best choice in terms of meeting your
Another consideration to make is that ideas that at first seem outlandish may
well prove to be potentially the most innovative. Nevertheless, their initial
outlandishness makes them likely to be rejected by someone simply choosing the
best ideas. By comparing ideas to a good criteria set, seemingly outlandish
ideas may reveal themselves to be rich in potential value and hence likely innovations.
As an example of this, I like to imagine a team, in the pre-bottled water era,
who are brainstorming ideas for a new soft drink. People suggest ideas like
drinks with a hint of lemon, drinks tasting of exotic fruit and so on. But one
person suggests: “how about if we put tap water in a bottle and sell it
at the same price as we sell our existing soft drinks?” Most people would
reject such an idea as silly. “Who would pay for tap water?” However,
if you were to compare the idea to criteria, such as profit potential, ease
of manufacture, fit with existing products and low risk, bottled water would
immediately be revealed to be an excellent idea.
So, the key lesson here is that if you want to innovate, avoid the term “best”
like the plague!
Communicate to Brainstormers
Whether you are running a small brainstorm session in a room or a massive on-line
brainstorm involving everyone in your company, communicating the kind of ideas
you want will help them focus on relevant ideas. Some people will argue that
this is not a good strategy because it may restrict the brainstormers’
thinking. I would argue that it focuses thinking. Moreover, there are many things
you can tell brainstormers. It may not be necessary to give detailed engineering
specifications when you are looking at redesigning an electronic product. But
you can communicate that you are specifically looking for ways to reduce the
size of the product so it can fit easily into a pocket.
This kind of information may result in fewer ideas, but it should result in
a greater number of relevant ideas. And remember, the aim of any idea generating
and development exercise is not get as many ideas as possible. Rather it is
to generate ideas you need to solve a specific problem.
In my anticonventional thinking approach (see http://www.jpb.com/act/):
if you are looking for creative ideas, tell brainstormers that you specifically
want creative ideas; or you can use terms like “outrageous”, “outlandish”,
“unusual”, “unique”, “crazy” and so on.
Words like these encourage brainstormers to reject conventional ideas and push
for unconventional ideas. Again,this results in fewer ideas, but a much higher
level of creativity.
Prepare Implementation Mechanisms
A classic problem with many brainstorming activities, especially those that
generate truly novel ideas, is that those novel ideas are often not implemented.
This is because a lot of effort goes into encouraging creativity as well as
managing software and brainstormers, but little thought goes into what will
happen after the ideas are generated.
If you hope and anticipate that a brainstorm will result in very creative ideas
which you hope will go on to become breakthrough innovations, you probably need
to think about how those ideas will be implemented. In particular, what bottlenecks
can you anticipate? Is your company plagued by review committees that are adverse
to risk like cats are to water? Is your company the kind where people talk about
ideas in an endless stream of meetings but no one is willing to take responsibility
for approving an idea? Does your company have strict purchasing rules that might
make unusual ideas difficult to put forward?
Thinking in advance about these potential bottlenecks and preparing mechanisms
that will facilitate the implementation of ideas can save you and the brainstormers
a lot of headaches later. Sure, you can wait until the ideas are generated before
trying to work out the bottlenecks and pushing the ideas through. But this takes
time and during that time, those responsible for ideas may well lose interest.
Being able to push ideas from conception to implementation quickly ensures people
Moreover, by identifying bottlenecks and developing methods to deal with them,
you will gain knowledge that can be used in the evaluation and development of
ideas. For instance, learning that purchasing services is easier for invoices
of under €10,000 allows you to design implementation plans that aim to
keep invoices at that level. Knowing that ideas need to be reviewed by a committee
that is having a meeting at a particular time allows you to plan the timing
of your own activities.
Of course you cannot know in advance exactly what ideas will come out of a
brainstorm, but you can have a reasonably clear image of the kind of ideas that
will result. If this is not possible, I would suggest that your brainstorm challenge
(or anticonventional thinking provocation) is too broad.
By knowing the kind of ideas you expect to get, you can easily plan evaluation
criteria, communicate key information to brainstormers and prepare implementation
procedures. This can only result in a smooth running brainstorming action in
which you generate the kind of ideas you need and see them through to implementation.
THE WAY OF THE INNOVATION MASTER
Everything You Need to Know about Setting Up an Innovation Process in Your
If you are responsible for innovation in your company, then my book: The Way
of the Innovation Master is just what you need. Written in the same informal
style I use in Report 103, The Way combines a narrative, a dialogue and a series
of lessons that enable you to become an innovation master and lead your company
on a path to continuing success!
More information and links to buy on-line can be found at http://www.jpb.com/books/
VISUALISING INNOVATION ECO-SYSTEMS
By Simon Evans
How do we look at the big picture of Innovation?
There are many different models of innovation out there, and they all have
their respective merits and challenge our thinking in different ways. In this
(hopefully) post recession world however it is time that we take another look
at how we are all looking at and thinking about our innovation capability. There
is a common perception that innovation is getting harder (see any of the recent
Boston Consulting papers for example), and that our “freedoms to innovate”
feel like they have been curtailed. Our successful approaches in the past may
no longer be good enough in this new world – unless we refresh out thinking
there is a danger that we will end up stuck in the past trying to repeat those
Innovation, as we all know, is not about a single magic formula, or a process
that we can just implement and succeed. It is instead a complex environment
of subtle influences and capabilities which will vary wildly from place to place
dependant on the emergent situation. It is also very delicate– it takes
little to upset it and prevent it from working well.
In this paper I would like to explore how we might describe innovation as an
eco-system that supports and nurtures our ideas and extracts the maximum value
from them. Maybe we can gain some insights and regain our big picture understanding
of what factors make innovation a success in today’s world.
Why an Eco-System?
The term “Eco-System” has been used by a number of people in the
past, but came into focus for us at InnovoFlow when it was suggested by a workshop
client. When asked, "what message will you take home from the workshop?"
his answer was "I like the way there is a holistic overview of all the
things that make innovation happen - it's like an eco-system of inter-dependant
habitats". This was spot on - we can imagine an effective innovation
space as having different zones of activity - habitats if you like, filled with
all the nutrients, symbiots, life-forms and substrates (as well as a few
predators), that are needed to make a healthy and successful eco-system.
By following this model we can start to help people know what goes where
and understand why it is needed and if anything is missing. We can also
help them understand when the eco-system needs to adapt or change, and give
them the tools to construct an adaptive, functional architecture that is
a reflection of the current opportunity they face and the resources they can
afford - we must remember there are no free lunches, only lunches that meet
the needs and pockets of the diners.
Populating the Innovation Eco-system
Let's imagine that our innovation eco-system has 4 habitats or zones
Creativity - those things that inspire and generate ideas and allow
us to identify those ideas with greatest potential.
Development - The activities which tend to add potential value to our
idea and make it into something real. Without this zone we would just have a
pile of useless things that will soon be forgotten.
Value Realisation - once our ideas have been validated and built into
a real offering, it is time to release that pent up value and make the idea
do some work! Some form of value generation is what it is all about, of course
,and so this activity is critical to our ongoing success, without it we may
as well not bother having and developing ideas.
Leadership - or perhaps we should term it Gardening? Those activities
that nurture the innovation eco-system and keep it healthy so that the other
three zones can do their work of processing ideas quickly and with the greatest
possible value add.
So what sort of activities could we place in these zones to populate them? We
must be realistic. Scarcity of resources will not allow us to introduce everything
we want, but each habitat/zone must have sufficient processes and activities
to ensure that ideas are created, developed and then value generated within
the most efficient framework possible. It is important to remember at
this point that ideas cannot exist in a vacuum - as Alfred North Whitehead observed,
"Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them". In this
model it means that at all times, your ideas must be supported by one process
or another within the eco-system zone. Without this, the ideas will wither away
in the breeze. We can picture our ideas being born in the creative zone,
and then moving through the various habitats while a variety of processes add
value and solidity to them. Maintaining the balance within and between
the zones is the key to efficiency and innovation velocity (as measured by the
rate of flow of good ideas through the system).
Some things are obvious. In the Creative habitat we should not be surprised
to see a selection of processes such as idea management systems, crowdsourcing,
open innovation, or unlearning. But what of "softer" things like courage,
finding the non-conformists or allowing time to pursue personal projects?
Similarly considering our Development habitat, obvious things like development
teams, joint ventures and open source developments may spring to mind, to which
we can add less concrete things like diversity, rainmakers or maybe the value
of taking a walk in the woods. Leadership processes might include a management
team willing to adopt new ideas, luck (self made), innovation strategies, the
impact of working environments or knowledge sharing.
The Importance of Visualisation
To stop the analysis simply becoming shopping list of things that you
want to do, it is important to physically populate the eco-system habitats on
paper or a board so it becomes a very visual and you can start to map out the
pathways your new ideas might take through the eco-system. It also becomes
painfully obvious where you are missing capability or resources and so you are
less likely to have a nasty shock as your idea gets stuck somewhere unexpected.
At the very least, this approach makes it clear that a huge variety of different
factors are at play here and that keeping your innovation eco-system healthy
is not just a matter of training people to brainstorm, setting up an innovation
initiative and installing an idea management system (however valuable that tool
When using the model it is important that whole end-to-end life-cycle of the
ideas is represented and clearly visible so that each step can be supported
in a deliberate way, with sufficient resources so that the required activities
actually work in the environment. If this is done well, then not only will the
innovation capability will be more coherent and efficient, but also there is
a good chance you will find it much easier to argue the case for funding as
the processes that drive the returns are considered with the same weight as
those activities which generate the ideas in the first place!
The eco-system approach to innovation can be summarised as follows:
Visualise your innovation space as consisting of creative, development,
value realisation and leadership zones
Ensure that each of these zones is populated with a variety of "things"
(processes, people, skills, philosophies, events, architectures, strategies
etc.) sufficient to meet your current challenge effectively and within any
resource constraints. Ensure that as much attention is applied to the value
realisation zone as the creative zone (which of course is very sexy and
is where a lot of the fun is).
Imagine your ideas appearing in the creative zone and moving across the
the other zones. Ask yourself what do you need to do at each stage
to maximise the flow of ideas and the potential value that is added to them
Be prepared to have multiple eco-systems - one size approach does not fit
all situations within your organisation.
Be adaptive - be an agile innovation leader! Continuously remodel
the eco-system as needed to keep up with emergent trends. Be aware
of the need to change approach, have the freedom to innovate - don't be
constrained by the way things have always been done.
Practice these skills routinely so your thinking is always being challenged.
Test your model and see what might happen if you introduced some new thinking.
Have fun - innovation should be fun, engaging and exciting and involve
everyone in some way - we are all sharing the same eco-system after all!
"If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always
got" Albert Einstein
About Simon Evans
Together with Victor Newman, Simon formed InnovoFlow Ltd in 2009 with the objective
of providing organisations a different approach to thinking about innovation.
With a background of 18 years innovative thinking in the global pharmaceutical
industry Simon has much practical experience of developing novel services. To
help drive the development of agile innovation leadership, Simon has been developing
InnovoZone, the Innovation Game ™ which is giving great insight into the
way organisations think about innovation. Simon also has long standing interests
in the governance and strategy behind successful corporate intranets through
his consultancy business, EnigmaQuest Ltd.
It has been a busy couple of months which have seen me travelling in Africa
and Europe to participate in the South Africa Innovation Summit, the European
Conference on Creativity and Innovation as well as corporate events. I’ve
talked about open innovation, have demonstrated anticonventional thinking (http://www.jpb.com/act/)
and even talked about how to do a creative workshop!
If you are planning a corporate event, where you need an energetic keynote
speaker, if you want to train your teams to learn how to think like creative
geniuses, if you need someone who can run a creative event – send an email
to firstname.lastname@example.org or call +32 2 305 6591 / +32 478 549 428 and let me know
what you want!
If you just want ideas, give me a call. A week ago, a chap from a global financial
company needed quick ideas to solve a collaboration problem. I gave him a solution
WORLD INNOVATION DIVERSITY INDEX
Artes Calculi World Innovation Diversity Index (AC WIDI), which has just been
published, measures national diversity of the world innovation dynamics.
It is based on data provided by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
– the number of patent filings in the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
system. WIPO publishes this data monthly, sorted by countries and past data
is available all the way back to the year 1985.
The Index includes all countries worldwide. The number of patent filings is
averaged on a yearly basis to correct for seasonal effects. The modified Gini
method for measuring statistical dispersion is then used to calculate the index.
The result – given on a scale from 0 to 100 – measures national
diversity of the world innovation dynamics.
The value of the index for Q2/2011 is 15.4410.
This value indicates that there is a significant room for improvement towards
more innovative society. Counting PCT filings, many countries contribute far
less than expected when their population and human resources and potential are
taken into account. Not surprisingly, many
countries with a large number of PCT filings per capita are highly developed
and yield significant economic power - we call them the Tier 1 countries. The
Tier 1 countries for Q2/2011 (sorted by the number of PCT applications per capita)
are: Estonia, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia,
Canada, Ireland, Belgium, France, Singapore, Norway, Austria, United States
of America, Israel, Republic of Korea, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Japan,
Sweden, Finland and Switzerland. In order to minimize the effects of possible
statistical fluctuations, Tier 1 list does not include countries with less than
1 million residents.
It is interesting to note that China is not among the Tier 1 countries –
however, it is positioned on the top of the Tier 2 list and, considering the
data from the past decade, was the fastest growing country and one of the main
reasons for the growth of the index in the period of 2001-2011.
"WIDI index was developed during our market research activities here at
Artes Calculi Ltd. It helps us track global innovation dynamics and trends,
feeling the pulse of the economies worldwide. During the last decade we witnessed
considerable shift in global state-of-the-art creation dynamics, with China
gaining a serious momentum. Consistent rise of the index clearly demonstrates
the progress of globalization process and the drive of emerging and developing
countries to become global players," says Hrvoje Abraham, Managing Director
at Artes Calculi Ltd.
You can download a PDF summary of the research together with charts at http://www.artcalc.com/ac-content/ac_widi_news_release_q2_2011.pdf
About Artes Calculi
Artes Calculi Ltd. is a software engineering company based in Croatia which
specializes in CAE (Computer Aided Engineering), off the shelf software solutions
and in custom solutions in the field of numerical analysis. To learn more, visit
www.artcalc.com, call +385 1 4552-943 or
e-mail message to email@example.com.
CREATIVITY, THE OLDEST SCHOOL SUBJECT?
At a Cambridge University conference on the archaeology of childhood, an interesting
hypothesis was shared: that stone-age children may have attended a kind of school
where they had art lessons. Archaeologists have known for a while that prehistoric
children were using finger paint to express themselves. However, new evidence
suggests that children may actually have had a form of group training in painting.
If this is true, it would suggest that one of the first things our prehistoric
ancestors felt worthy of teaching their young was how to express themselves
creatively. Perhaps it was already a sense of recognition that creativity and
the ability to create things separated humans from animals.
more about this interesting research in the Guardian...
THE MYTH OF COMMON SENSE
Because collaborative creativity and innovation is a social activity, a lot
of assumptions are made based on common sense. The individual often assumes
“if I feel this way, then everyone must feel similarly, so it must be
true.” But, as any scientist worth her salt can tell you, a random sampling
of one is hardly statistically useful!
Although not directly about creativity and innovation, this article on common
sense is a must read for anyone interested in the field. The
Myth of Common Sense: Why The Social World Is Less Obvious Than It Seems.
JENNI IDEA MANAGEMENT
If you are looking for an easy to use, enterprise idea management software
solution that can facilitate massive on-line brainstorms, allow your managers
to control who participates in which brainstorm and provides the industry’s
best suite of evaluation tools, take a look at Jenni innovation process management
software. I am sure it will meet your needs and more! After all, I designed
it myself (but better programmers
In North and South America: http://www.jenniusa.net/
Elsewhere in the world: http://www.jpb.com/jenni/
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