Facilitator Journal | Issue #0402, July 21, 2009
issue explores the practice of generating creative ideas
within groups and organizations. Much of this material
was drawn from a past article in the Futurist Magazine
entitled, "7 Strategies for Generating Ideas."
This article summarizes the results of a team of researchers
from Rensselaer Polytechnic University in New York who
spent time observing radical innovation projects in
companies such as IBM, GE, GM and DuPont.
They also found that most of their ideas came from "happy
accidents" rather than from some ongoing process
to generate ideas. They found that the vanguards of
innovation are paying much more attention to the "fuzzy
front end" of innovation where possibilities first
come to light, and use seven strategies to increase
throughput of significant ideas.
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Facilitating "Happy" Accidents
to generate creative ideas
Group Dynamics Skill
team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic University from
New York, in their study of radical innovation projects, found
that "...in most companies today, the "practice"
of innovation can be likened to the mating of pandas: infrequent,
clumsy, and often ineffective. It's practice is largely unchanged
from 20 years ago. While the world has changed drastically and
organizations pride themselves for having a process for everything,
the process of innovation remains ad hoc, unsystematic, piecemeal,
seat of the pants, and heavily dependent on luck."
This team found that the creative breakthroughs that visit most
companies came from "happy accidents" rather than from
some ongoing process to innovation. They found that the vanguards
of innovation are paying much more attention to the "fuzzy
front end" of innovation where possibilities first come to
light, and the seven strategies they are using to increase throughput
of significant ideas.
Strategies for Generating Ideas...
1. Invite Everyone in the quest for ideas. Organizations
can enlarge their pool of ideas by including more employees in
the process. Start by encouraging them to listen to customers.
Don't allow managers, technical specialists, or purchasing, finance,
or human resource professionals to participate in new product,
services, or market development decisions unless they spend at
least 20% of their time with current (or future) customers and
2. Involve customers in your process. The traditional focus
group needs more focus. Form advisory boards of key customers
to serve as sounding boards for ideas. Identify customers who
tend to buy the latest versions of your products. These "lead
adopters" can provide you with insights about where the market
may be headed and how your organization can best position itself.
3. Involve customers in new ways. Look outside of your
own field or industry for ideas on how to get customer input.
Automakers, retailers, and consumer electronics manufacturers,
for instance, are on the leading edge of customer surveying and
are often considered the early adopters of ideational techniques.
4. Focus on the unarticulated needs of customers. Learn
from customers by observing what they are not doing, listening
to what they are not saying. Recognize the sources of their
frustration and find potential ways of eliminating it.
5. Seek ideas from new customer groups. Look at your customers'
customers and your competitors' customers. Instead of looking
at only the present, look also at the past (former customers)
and the future (anyone you haven't done business with yet). Ask
how you might meet those customer's needs.
6. Involve suppliers in product ideation. Just as you look
at your customers for new ideas (such as by detecting their unarticulated
needs), think of your organization as your suppliers' customer.
You, too, have unarticulated needs. Try articulating them and
get your suppliers' idea-generating capacity working in concert
with yours. Ask them to be creative on your behalf. This is a
win for you and for them.
7. Benchmark ideation methods. Organization that rely on
innovation need to seriously examine the climate in which ideation
takes place and put someone in charge of making the process better,
more productive, and more innovative. Innovation-adept firms invest
in ideation sessions, read books, attend seminars, and constantly
seek to improve their skills.
Source: Adapted from the article 7 Strategies for Generating Ideas from the March 1, 2003 issue of the Futurist Magazine.
can you use one or more of these strategies to support yourself
or your clients? Do these strategies give you any ideas for
your own business? Please share your thoughts and experiences with me by replying to this email.
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