"I'm not asking your advice because I need help coming up with a tried and true, predictable, safe or proven idea. No, I've already tried all of those and they didn't work. I'm asking your help in finding something creative, untested, unproven, off the wall, risky, fashionable and challenging. Don't let me down. Don't hesitate to share your crazy idea... it might just be the one."
That's a great question/statement ... "help me be original." My question is "have you setup your organization to allow such creativity?"
Most groups I've seen not only don't ask this type of question but actively discourage thinking out of the box, and the bigger the group the stronger the "do what we've always done" culture (just try getting something new done in a big corporation ... and yes, I know there are a few exceptions such as Apple; but only a few).
As a company, especially a company trying to be innovative you need to develop a "culture of creativity." You need to put in place a process where not only are people allowed to think out of the box but are actively encouraged to think out of the box and given a process to do so. Look at Google with their 1 day per week do whatever you want program, for example.
You will need a couple of institutionalized processes to accomplish this:
1.) You'll need to figure out who should be doing what.
There are two types of personalities when it comes to thinking different (ok, there are more; check out "The Ten Faces of Innovation" to get the full picture): Creators and Problem Solvers.
Creators just think about new ways of doing things. Most of what they come up with is crap. At times they don't think about what matters to the customer (i.e. all the useless items that no one would ever buy), or they only think of what is cool (see all the features in new products that almost no one but the gadget elite would ever use), or create a solution in search of a problem (witness WebVan).
But they do come up with NEW stuff. They throw caution to the wind, think up new ideas regardless of the past (and in fact some times in spite of the past) and either help solve real problems or give the customer something truly unique and valuable.
Then there are the Problem Solvers. These are folks who couldn't come up with a new idea if their lives depended on it (I'm being a bit sarcastic here, because Creators can problem solve and Problem Solvers can create, but in general the Creator and Problem Solver personality are very distinct).
What Problem Solvers can do is to quickly pick out the fatal flaws in an idea.
You'll need both personality types in your organization. And if you don't have them, or don't know who is who then your innovation/next-big-idea process will stall out. Make sure you give your Creators plenty of room to create without the bars of having to make things practical (i.e. keep Problem Solvers away during the brainstorming process), and make sure Problem Solvers have the freedom to pick apart things without Creators as back-seat drivers.
In the next few posts I’ll explore the other components of being creative, including:
2.) You'll need a creative idea / innovation process
3.) You'll need a innovation funnel
4.) You'll need to learn the three F's: Fail, Forward, Fast
See you on the wire