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    Why Make Time Now for Strategy Exploration (Part 2)

    “The best way to predict the future is to create it,” said Abraham Lincoln. If you are a C-level executive, business unit leader, or an entrepreneur, the start of a new, disruptive decade is an ideal point in time to look at the big picture of your business and to explore the evolving strategic market environment. At Thinkergy, we guide management teams through such a Strategic Xploration-exercise with the help of the strategy toolkit in our X-IDEA toolbox.

    In part 1 of this two-article-series, I first shared with you what happens at the beginning of a Strategy Xploration Project. Then, we discussed at length what happens in the intensive Xploration phase. Here, we direct you to check out facts and assumptions, ask you lots of thought-provoking questions, help you to look at your business from many different perspectives, and map out trends and strategic risks, among others. In today’s final part 2 of this article, I’ll walk you through what happens in the subsequent immersion and extraction steps of a Strategy Xploration Project.

    3. Immerse yourself with fresh information to close your knowledge gaps

    “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge,” noted the American educator Daniel J. Boorstin. By the end of the Xploration step of Strategy Xploration, you have compiled a long Un-Knowledge List. These are things you don’t know yet about your business and the emerging market space but would want to know. After all, as Aldous Huxley said: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

    In the subsequent Xploration Immersion-step, you attempt to close these identified knowledge gaps. You aim to turn un-knowledge into knowledge and —in some cases— into novel insights into your business. How?

    • First, in an Infostorming-exercise, we discuss how to best source a particular piece of missing information and who in your team will be doing it.
    • Then, with Infosourcing, you begin to close all identified knowledge gaps.
      • Typically, you do this by engaging in secondary research (e.g., by mining statistical data on the Internet).
      • However, in important cases, and if time permits, you may even engage in primary research. For example, you may survey critical stakeholders to validate your points listed in an earlier Walk A Mile-exercise. Or you may interview “extreme customers” to learn more about your value offerings. These Friends And Foes either fervently love or hate your company and your products.

    For critical projects, we may suggest you analyze essential company- and customer-related big data. Big data analytics allows for checking out key assumptions that you listed earlier in the tool Assumptions Check. You can also use this to test business hypotheses related to identified points on our Unknowledge List. Often, big data analytics brings out surprising and, at times, even game-changing new insights that alter management’s views on the business.

    For example, such an analysis may reveal that the most profitable customer segment to target going forward is one that you’ve somewhat neglected so far. My company Thinkergy partners with a German data-science-based strategic consulting agency (ScienceWorcs) that, for a fee, can analyze your essential company- and customer-related data.

    4. Xtract your learnings and your outputs

    Xtraction is the final phase in a Strategy Xploration project. By now, you and your teammates have compiled a long list of novel insights into your evolving market environment. For example, you’re likely to have identified relevant emerging trends and shifting market boundaries. You may have spotted potential new market opportunities. And you’ve recognized strategic risks that might threaten or even sink your business.

    Visualize all insights in your Insights List in an Insights Map, which allows you to identify true “ahas” quickly. These are novel and important insights that really deepen and often fundamentally shift your understanding of your business and the evolving strategic market space.

    Then, step back and ask: Is your vision still in line with those novel and important “ahas” you discovered? In case you’ve uncovered some genuinely game-changing novel insights, you may need to revisit your corporate vision. An excellent way to do this is to create Vision Scenarios, where you develop a new preferred vision of your future as well as three alternative scenarios (including a “disowned” one).

    Alternatively, we may ask each team to come up with a BHAG. Thereby, you suggest a “big hairy audacious goal” for your company to pursue that can take the business to a higher level by the end of this decade. An effective BHAG may propose to strive for an ambitious target, to take on a common foe, to emulate an inspiring role model, or to achieve an internal transformation.

    By the end of a Strategy Xploration project, you have gained clarity on what trends and market drivers are likely to affect your business in the coming years, and how to take your business forward towards success in a disruptive new decade. In some cases, you may have already gained a clear understanding on the next steps and strategic actions you need to take in the coming years. In other cases, you may realize a need to disrupt your current business before the market does so. If you realize you need to shift your business to realize new market opportunities and to develop new value propositions, then follow Strategy Xploration with a follow-up project. 

    So you’ve completed Strategy Xploration, what’s next?

    In a Strategy Innovation project, we take the teams through the remaining four stages of X-IDEA (Ideation, Development, Evaluation, Action). How would we guide you through such a workshop?

    • In the Ideation stage, we help each team to come up with 700-1000 raw ideas catering to your strategic focus challenge.
    • In the second creative stage, Development, the teams then take time to design and develop 25-40 concepts of meaningful strategic action initiatives for your business.
    • During Evaluation, the teams evaluate all developed concepts. First, they separate the wheat from the chaff by identifying promising concepts, then enhance those, and finally elect their top five strategic action ideas.
    • In the final Action-stage of X-IDEA, the teams pitch their top ideas to a panel of jurors. We add all strategic action concepts that gain initial executive approval to a Strategic Road Map. This visual tool captures all strategic project initiatives that will be rolled out over the next 3-5 years and move you closer to your preferred vision.

    As such, the main output of a Strategy Innovation Workshop is a Strategic Road Map with meaningful strategic actions. For example, a strategic action concept on Thinkergy’s Strategy Road Map 2020-2023 is, “Set-up an Affiliate Program for our innovator profiling test TIPS.” 

    While a Strategy Road Map gives your efforts strategic focus and sets-out a clear pathway of strategic development and innovation projects, it is not cast in stone. The tool allows you to flexibly accommodate new initiatives that you may come up with later in response to discontinuities or disruptions in the market.

    • Would you like to learn more about X-IDEA? Our award-winning innovation method and toolbox that produces innovation results not only for strategy innovation projects but also for all other modern innovation types (such as product innovation or solution design).
    • Would you be interested to do a Strategy Xploration Project with us (either as ongoing consulting or in workshop formats)?
    • Contact us to tell us more about your innovation agenda 2020 and find out how we may help you deliver on it. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2020

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    Who Likes Playing With What Kind of Thinking Tools?

    During the past one-and-a-half decades, I designed and facilitated more than 150 innovation project workshops. One thing I noticed in all these projects is the following reality: Depending on their personality and preferred cognitive styles, different people tend to enjoy working on different types of thinking tools used within the creative process. Thanks to TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovator profiling tool, I can now tell you in advance who’s going to shine working on what kind of thinking tool in an innovation project. Allow me to explain.

    How an innovation project unfolds in a nutshell

    When companies want to tackle a vital innovation challenge in a project, they first find a manager to lead the initiative. Then, this manager forms innovation teams that work on the case in one or more workshops. Next, she invites an external innovation facilitator to guide the teams through the process with the help of a systematic creative process (such as Design Thinking or X-IDEA). Prominent innovation methods consist of a series of process stages (e.g., X-IDEA has five stages called Xploration, Ideation, Development, Evaluation, and Action). As the teams move stage-by-stage through the process, the facilitator introduces specific thinking tools that the teams need to work on to produce the desired outputs and results.

    How cognitive profiling can enhance innovation project work

    Thinkergy’s Innovation Profiling System TIPS uses four socio-economic base orientations (theories, ideas, people, systems) and four cognitive styles (to think, work, interact, and live) to profile people into one of eleven TiPS innovator profiles. 

    Now suppose you’re in charge of an innovation project as a project manager or an innovation facilitator. Would you be keen to know more about the personalities and preferred cognitive styles of each team member participating in the innovation project? 

    Gaining such awareness would make your life much easier. Knowing the TIPS innovator profiles of everyone involved enables you to compose innovation teams that are cognitively diverse within but balanced across all groups. It also allows you to understand who is likely to shine at what stage of the creative process. Last but not least, it even allows you to accurately assign a specific thinking tool to those team members who have a natural affinity to apply it well. 

    Who enjoys working on what thinking tools?

    In the following, let’s go through the 11 TIPS innovator (clockwise on the TIPS Profiling Map starting on the top left) and understand what kind of thinking tools (taken from our X-IDEA toolbox) they delight in:

    • Theorists are logical, abstract thinkers who, above else, care about the truth. In an innovation project, let them work on critical thinking tools such as performing Fact Checks or Assumption Checks, checking for Rules For Fools, or probing for the Lowest Common Denominator related to the project challenge.
    • Conceptualizers are strategic big-picture thinkers who particularly shine in the first process stage of an innovation project. They enjoy creating Trends & Discontinuities Maps or Strategic Road Maps. They also perform well when engaging in Situational Reframing of key project parameters. Conceptualizers also enjoy working on a Challenge Map used to identify the right level of abstraction to frame the Final Challenge (a crucial “how to”-question used to generate ideas later in the project).
    • Ideators are progressive creators who enjoy pushing for bold, disruptive change. it’s little wonder they tend to come up with wild, provocative ideas (courtesy of Ideation tools such as What If, Reversal, or Born To Be Wild). During Evaluation, Ideators are also the most likely to throw in a Wild Card to move forward a disruptive idea concept that the majority of a more conservative team rejects.
    • Promoters are charismatic communicators who connect ideas to people. They enjoy imaginative creativity tools such as Imagination Trips, Star Advisor Board, or My Superstar during Ideation. And Me. In the final process stage, Action, they lead a team’s work efforts on thinking tools such as Storyboarding, Idea Pitch Designer, and Idea Pitch.
    • Partners always want to be around others and care for the needs and desires of people. Hence, chose a few Partners to take an Empathetic Point Of View on your case or to Walk A Mile in the shoes of key stakeholders involved in your challenge. And of course, they enjoy Brainstorming or Battle Of The Sexes (during Ideation) and Ideabook (a more social way to do Evaluation).
    • Organizers are the most operational and hands-on among all the profiles. They naturally focus on the small pictures related to your project case. Hence, they enjoy exploring all the details of your challenge with the help of a questioning tool such as 5W1H. They also like to compile a Project Plan and a 5W2H Action Plan for the actual implementation of a top idea.
    • Systematizers like to preserve the status quo and dislike taking risks. In the first process stage of an innovation project, assign them to work on creating a Strategic Risk Map or coming up with realistic Idea Evaluation Criteria. If involved in the creative stages, they prefer practical creativity tools such as Morphological Matrix and Get Real (used to tame a wild idea). During Evaluation, they prefer “objective” tools such as the Weighted Scoring Model (criteria-based rating and computation of a team’s top ideas).
    • Use Technocrats to play The Numbers Game and check on the plausibility of key quantitative data related to your case. Later on during Evaluation, they take pleasure in composing a Balance Sheet (i.e., listing all the assets & liabilities of an ideas, as well as “below the line” items as possible contingencies). Finally, they don’t mind if you assign them with keeping track of all top concepts that you enter into the Idea Pipeline.
    • Coaches are rare as a unicorn, so count yourself lucky if you have one in an innovation team. Ask a philosophical, humanistic Coach to compile a list of thought-provoking X Questions to both deeply and widely probe for the team’s understanding of the case—and its knowledge gaps. A Coach also enjoys asking Five Times Why to probe for the underlying motivations of doing the project. You may also assign a Coach to think about the Consequences of implementing a particularly disruptive top idea.
    • Experimenters systematically test ideas. As they like to take things apart and reconfigure them anew, they embrace more formal Ideation Tools such as Attribute Listing or Relational Words. And of course, they’re the first to roll up the sleeves when it’s time for Rapid Prototyping of promising concepts.
    • Finally, as an innovation manager or facilitator, be grateful for any All-Rounders taking part in the innovation project. Because All-Rounders have many interests and are the most balanced among all profiles, you can have them work on any thinking tool that is left to do. Alternatively, ask them to support any team member who needs help while working on a particular thinking tool assignment.

    Conclusion: Know your people before assigning the work on innovation tools

    To sum-up, an innovation facilitator who is aware of the innovator profiles of all participants in an innovation project workshop can assign the work on a particular thinking tool to those participants who exhibit conducive cognitive styles. Why is this useful? Three reasons:

    1. Greater enjoyment: When a facilitator assigns thinking tools based on their cognitive fit, all team members work on those tools that they enjoy, thus increasing employee engagement and commitment to innovation.
    2. Higher productivity: Greater enjoyment and involvement increases the odds that everyone produces excellent outputs in a particular stage of the creative process, and that the teams end up with superior innovation results overall by the end of the innovation project
    3. Greater effectiveness: Finally, assigning tool work based on cognitive preference also allows teams to be more time-effective. The facilitator can split up a team into various subgroups where each member works on those tools that are in harmony with cognitive styles and interests. In result, an innovation team can produce more and better outputs in a given amount of time. 

    Of course, gaining such awareness in your people’s innovator profiles requires a small upfront investment of time and money. But aren’t the increases in enjoyment, productivity, and time-effectiveness worth it?

    • Would you like to learn more about how we run innovation projects using our award-winning X-IDEA innovation method?
    • Have you become curious to find out what’s your TIPS innovator profile and your related cognitive styles? Click here to register and buy a coupon for your TIPS online test now.
    • Would you be interested in doing an experiential, eye-opening TIPS training course with your team? Or learn how to use the tools in our X-IDEA toolbox in an X-IDEA training?
    • Contact us to tell us more about yourself and how we may help you. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019


  • Inspiring Quote - Edison


    Because he successfully practiced a systematic innovation approach, the legendary inventor Thomas Edison was well aware that innovation is largely a numbers game. 

    In Thinkergy's X-IDEA innovation method, we also track the innovation outputs at each stage of the process, thus making sure that you first produce a lot of raw ideas (during Ideation) before you design the most intriguing ones into great ideas (in the Development-stage). 

    When can we guide you and your team through an innovation project with the help of X-IDEA?

  • Brainstorming: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

    Whenever a business or a work team needs some ideas, someone in the group invariably suggests: “Okay, let’s brainstorm for ideas then.”

    Brainstorming is arguably the most widely used creativity technique ever since Alex Osborn introduced the tool in his classic 1953 book Applied Imagination. Need some evidence? Brainstorming has played a central role in every book on creativity techniques. Some people even use the word brainstorming synonymously with creativity.

    A search on Google delivers about 11.8 million results for the word “brainstorming” as compared to only 1.5 million hits for the term “creativity technique” – although, from a set theory point of view, the subset brainstorming is only a part of the whole “creativity technique” set. Take the simple Google popularity test as a warning sign: It suggests that brainstorming is often used in a context different from its original scope of being an idea generation tool.

    Here we arrive at some of the problems with brainstorming. With reference to the title of the classic western movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, you need to understand the good, bad and ugly side of brainstorming to produce creative results for your company when using this tool.

    The ugly side of Brainstorming

    So let’s get started in gaining a greater understanding by looking at the ugly sides of brainstorming first: My experience as a creativity coach has taught me that in most companies, brainstorming is done incorrectly, thus delivering only comparatively few, rather unoriginal ideas. Most companies start on the correct path by assigning a facilitator to run the session and a recorder to jot down the ideas of the group in an appropriate size (eight plus minus two is a good rule of thumb here). However, they fail when it comes to following through on the all-important four Ground Rules of Brainstorming:

    • First, defer judgment until the end of the session – or in other words: no killing of ideas during the brainstorming. Judgment is like driving with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake. So, take the foot off the brake to accelerate the idea output in a brainstorming session.
    • Second, go for quantity – as quantity breeds quality. Here, remember that the chances that you find one great idea out of an idea generation session will be higher if you get four hundred as compared to only a hundred ideas. As Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling noted: “The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas.”
    • Third, the wilder the better. Shoot for crazy, wild, absurd ideas — in line with Albert Einstein’s advice: “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”
    • Finally, combine ideas and improve on the ideas of others.

    The bad side of Brainstorming

    Moving on to the bad sides of brainstorming: Many research studies confirm that brainstorming is an inferior technique with regards to producing a high idea quantity. In a given time interval, a group of “brainwriters” that individually write down their ideas will generate roughly four-times more ideas then a same-size brainstorming group.

    Researchers attribute this result to three effects that explain the deficiencies of brainstorming:

    1. First, some members of the group don’t participate and let others do all the work (the “free-rider phenomenon”);
    2. Secondly, some group participants avoid expressing wild or original ideas out of fear how other group members might privately judge them (the problem of “evaluation apprehension”);
    3. and third and most important, the “blocking effect” that stems from the fact that only one person can speak at a time and then blocks the thinking of other members who listen to the suggested idea instead of thinking for themselves.

    The good side of Brainstorming

    Finally, let’s talk about the good side: Brainstorming has become such a popular technique because it is a highly enjoyable, energetic activity that people love to do – and having fun and being playful and childlike (as opposed to being childish) are all very beneficial for unleashing creativity.

    Brainstorming is a crucial ingredient in the creative culture of the industrial design powerhouse IDEO, and the innovation results delivered by this company speak for the benefits of this technique if used appropriately.

    So what?

    So how can we cure the bad and ugly sides of brainstorming while continuing to enjoy the benefits of its good side? Here are five recommendations on how you can develop a correct brainstorming culture in your company:

    1. Start the process by sending your employees to a quality creativity training workshop to learn the basics of idea generation.
    2. Have an individual Brainwriting exercise before every brainstorming session.
    3. Review the ground rules before the start of a session.
    4. Set an idea quota for each session — say, at least a hundred ideas in one hour that keeps the group focused on moving forward instead of falling into the judgment trap.
    5. Finally, have an experienced facilitator run the session, who introduces other creativity techniques (such as ‘Metaphors’ or ‘What if” (wishful thinking) into the session once the group starts running dry on ideas.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 


  • Who Shines in the Creative Process?

    Have you ever participated in an innovation project? Have you ever worked as a member of an innovation project team on an innovation case that your senior management deemed important? Did you enjoy the entire project experience? Or did your find parts of the innovation workshop boring, tiring or otherwise de-energizing?

    If you’re like most people, then probably you really enjoyed some parts of the innovation project, while other phases didn’t click with you — and you kept asking yourself ‘Why am I here?’

    Why was that? Because of your preferred cognitive styles and your innovator profile. Let me explain who tends to enjoy and perform well when (i.e., in what kind  of work phases or process stages) in an innovation project.

    A creative process gives structure to an innovation project

    In the era of the innovation economy, many companies set up dedicated innovation projects to tackle innovation challenges. Thereby, one or more project teams work on a case by going step-by-step through the stages of a creative process method, such as the classic Creative Problem-Solving Model (CPS, and its modern variations), the popular Design Thinking approach, or Thinkergy’s X-IDEA method. 

    Typically, such creative processes have from 3-6 distinct process stages that for a certain period of time invite would-be innovators to engage in specific styles of thinking, working, interacting, and “living”: 

    • Thinking: What style of thinking dominates in a particular stage? Some process stages require the team members to think more analytically and critically, other stages clearly invite them to think creatively, while many stages call for both styles of thinking. 
    • Working: Some process stages require the teams to work on assignments that are more abstract, conceptual and “big picture” in nature, while other stages are more practical, hands-on and detailed, and some have a mix of both.
    • Interacting: The interactions and conversations between delegates are more fact-based in some stages, and more intuitive or empathetic in others, or may draw upon both.
    • Living: The final aspect captures the levels of formality and energy of how the activities in any one stage are executed and approached. Some process stages unfold in a very formal, controlled and serious way, others are more free-flowing, playful and even apparently chaotic, while many have a healthy mix of formal order and flexible freedom. 

    By the way, unlike the default four stage-model of most creative processes, Thinkergy’s awards-winning innovation method X-IDEA unfolds in five stages: Xploration, Ideation, Development, Evaluation, and Action, Why? We passionately believe that in order to move beyond conventional ideas, a creative process method needs to have two distinct creative process stages (Ideation and Development) that differ in speed, energy and output focus (idea quality vs. concept quality). And we argued our case in an academic paper that we also summed up as a blog article.

    Why do different people shine in different creative process stages?

    Because in the creative process, the required styles of thinking, working, interacting and “living” change from stage to stage, it’s not surprising that different people tend to enjoy different process stages. Or more precisely: different innovator profiles with their preferred styles to think, work, interact and live.

    Sadly, most companies have little to no idea of the preferred cognitive styles of each of their employees — and related, what kind of stages and activities in a creative process a particular employee tends to enjoy. Hence, they ask their employees to attend and work through all process stages of an innovation project, although most people only enjoy —and do well in— 2-3 out of 4-5 process stages (depending on the chosen innovation method or creative process model). In other words: Most people asked to join an innovation project feel like that they are wasting between 25-50% of their work time for something they don’t feel contributes much value — and don’t enjoy. Little wonder that organizations have begun experiencing the phenomenon of innovation fatigue. 

    How to understand the preferred cognitive styles of your people

    Cognitive profiling tools aim to capture differences in the way people prefer to think and work with the help of a questionnaire that is linked to established theories on cognition. 

    Well-known cognitive profiling methods include Herrmann’s Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) or Alan Black’s MIND Design Concept — and for the past few years, there is also TIPS, Thinkergy’s Innovator Profiling System created to help individuals and organizations optimize the people side of business and innovation. TIPS introduces 11 distinct innovator profiles, each of which has a unique position on the TIPS Profiling Map that is spanned by the four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) and marked by the four TIPS styles (to think, work, interact, and live).


    So who shines when in an innovation project?

    Suppose you are a manager in charge of organizing and running an innovation project. You need to convince your busy colleagues to commit time for your project. Suppose further you know all the TIPS profiles of your colleagues (as your company has invested in TIPS as a personal assessment tool for talent acquisition, alignment & management — and for righting the people-side of innovation). Suppose finally you opt to run your innovation project by employing X-IDEA as your creative process method. So, what TIPS profiles tend to shine in what stages of X-IDEA? Or in other words: Who do you invite to participate in your innovation project? And when?

    • Stage X—Xploration:
      You kick-off your X-IDEA-powered innovation project with an initial Xploration Workshop of at least 2 days. What TIPS profiles should you invite to explore your case? Mostly the conceptual, brainy profiles revolving around the Theories- and Ideas-bases who enjoy doing Xploration: Theorists, Ideators and —in particular— Conceptualizers. Moreover, if your project has a strong customer focus, then also add a few Promoters and Partners; they infuse empathetic People-energy and ensure that your customers’ wants, needs and pains are considered, too. Mixed well together, these profiles take care that the innovation teams first Xpress what they do and don’t know about the case, then Xplore it from various perspectives, and finally Xtract novel insights before framing the final challenge. 
    • Stages I—Ideation and D—Development:
      Next, you invite all the creative types to a 1-2 day-long Ideation & Development Workshop. You find these profiles with fantasy and creative energy located near the Ideas- and People-bases: Ideators, Imaginative Conceptualizers and Experimenters, Promoters and Partners enjoy both the frenzy of a wild Ideation-session and the design of novel, original and meaningful idea concepts in the Development-stage. Here, fill-up any gaps in the teams with All-Rounders and maybe also a few Theorists.
    • Stage E—Evaluation:
      Set aside half to —if you also do rapid prototyping— one day for an Evaluation-session, for which you need profiles representing the energies of all four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems). In particular, now is the time to bring in those critical, pragmatic profiles surrounding the Systems-base: Systematizers, Technocrats, Organizers, and Systematic Experimenters help the innovation teams to get real and down to business, thus making sure that those top ideas selected for implementation both make great meaning and are feasible to implement. 
    • Stage A—Action:
      In the final stage of X-IDEA, Action, you compose an implementation project team involving profiles from all TIPS bases but the Theories-base to transform one top idea into a tangible innovation. While the team mostly consists of more operative, action-oriented profiles at the People- and Systems-base (Partners, Organizers, Systematizers, plus All-Rounders) to enjoy doing operative project work, you should also have at least one clear-cut Promoter and one well-developed Ideator on the team. Why? Your Promoter is the best person to pitch the idea to senior management and other key stakeholders, thus ensuring you secure the necessary budgets and other resources needed for implementation. And your Ideator can add drive and lots of ideas to the team, thus helping them to overcome operational issues, organizational obstacles and plain corporate inertia.

    Conclusion: Boost innovation results by connecting the process-side to the people-side of innovation

    Knowing the preferred cognitive styles of all their employees allows companies to staff innovation project teams in a more flexible, effective and productive way:

    1. More flexible: Invite different innovator profiles for different creative process stages held on different workshop days.
    2. More effective: By adhering to point 1, you demonstrate that you respect the time constraints and preferred cognitive styles of your employees.
    3. More productive: Because of points 1 and 2, all workshop delegates in the innovation teams play on their preferred cognitive styles all of the time. Because the team members feel more engaged and involved, you’re highly likely to have better results in the innovation project — and more commitment to innovation in general.

    But do all of these benefits justify the investment in a cognitive profiling test for all people involved in innovation in your company? Modern knowledge workers often cost a company at least $150-200 per workday. Every day wasted in an innovation project team that is in a process stage that doesn’t suit the preferred cognitive style of your employee means burning that amount of money. Compare that with a small one-time investment of just $89 for a TIPS online profiling test (which also offers many other applications in innovation and beyond for business in general), and you have your ROI justification. 

    So, what’s your TIPS innovator profile? And related to that, what are your preferred cognitive styles? When will you get yourself and your colleagues TIPS-ed?

    • Click here to register and buy a coupon ($89) for your TIPS online personality test now.
    • Contact us to learn more about our experiential, eye-opening TIPS training courses. 


  • It’s not only what tools you use, but how you use them

    When you work with a team on an innovation project case, what matters is not only what kind of thinking tool you use when in the innovation process. To do sound thinking and produce adequate outputs, it also matters how exactly you use the tool — or in other words: how you communicate and interact with other team members while applying a particular tool, and how you capture outputs. Today, let’s learn more about the different communication styles that you can use while working on an innovation project.

    Background: The problem with “brainstorming”

    When hearing the words “creativity” and “innovation”, many businesspeople automatically think of another word: brainstorming. Unsurprisingly, they also indiscriminately use this word while working on an innovation case, such as: “We need to brainstorm for ideas”, or “Let’s brainstorm what we know about our case”.

    While applying a particular thinking tool, however, you may alternatively use a range of other —and often better— communication styles. Why shouldn’t you always simply “brainstorm” for outputs with your team?

    Using a variety of communication styles has the following benefits: For one, it often can help teams to noticeably enhance the quantity and quality of their outputs. For two, going beyond “brainstorming” for ideas or outputs is also an effective way to circumvent intercultural issues like ‘saving face’ or ‘respecting seniority or authority.’ For three, varying communication styles can also enhance the levels of fun and enjoyment of an innovation session for the various team members who often differ in their personality and preferred cognitive styles.

    For example, while the more social and extraverted types enjoy “brainstorming”, the more theoretical and private types tend to prefer —and contribute more and better outputs— less dynamic and more well-structured interaction styles. Apart from “brainstorming” for ideas or outputs in a group, you may also fall back on other innovation communication styles depending on the cognitive styles of the different team members and the nature of the thinking tools you intend to use. For example, we may do solo-brainwriting or pool-brainwriting, enjoy a round of buddystorming or brainstorming, among others.

    Variables to decide on while applying thinking tools:

    Say you’re an innovation facilitator who’s guiding an innovation team through the application of one particular thinking tool. Apart from setting the time available for the exercise and ideally a target output quota, you also have to decide on the following variables with regards to the precise application of the tool by a team:

    • Team member split: Do we apply this tool by working with the whole team, in pairs or individually?
    • Feedback: Do we apply a thinking tool so that the output of other team members may stimulate a delegate while producing more outputs (feedback), or do we use it without feedback? e.g., when you exchange idea worksheets, you may read one idea that inspires a new one.
    • Rotation: If various tools are used in parallel by a group of participants, do we rotate the participants working on a specific tools after some time to provide additional input to the work of other participants on another tool? Or do we keep the work groups static?
    • Output capturing: How do you capture outputs? For example, do you write ideas on a flip-chart, blank paper sheets, Post-it notes, worksheets? Do you have one person writing down the outputs for the group, or is everyone writing and producing outputs in parallel?
    • Repetition: Do we apply the tool in one go (which is the norm), or do we allow for multiple rounds?

    What innovation communication styles do we distinguish?

    When an innovation team works on an innovation case, they have the following options to apply a thinking tool within a certain stage of an innovation process method:

    • Brainstorming: This is the default way of how most teams typically apply a particular thinking tool, especially a creativity tool. The team works together as a whole group to produce the desired outputs (e.g., ideas). Thereby, each team member can freely —and without any formal order— suggest thoughts and ideas, which are recorded by at least one person on a paper sheet, a flip-chart or a whiteboard.

    • Round Robin Brainstorming: Sitting at a table or in a circle with your team, you go around and share a thought or idea one by one. Once a round is completed, you start again with the first person and continue going around; when it’s their turn, team members may say “I pass” if they need more time to think (or temporarily go blank). Just as with brainstorming, make sure to have one person to record the comments or ideas.
    • Bodystorming: As a group, enact a role play where you use your bodies to check out or act out a value offering or subject under investigation, such as boarding an airplane or queuing options for immigration checks at airports. As s bodystormer, loudly communicate your experiences and feelings, which are recorded by one team member.

    • Buddystorming: Pair up with your buddy (a newly befriended or already close team member), and work together on a tool to generate the desired outputs (which one of you may record on paper, worksheets or Post-it notes).

    • Think-Pair-Share: This communication style blends solo, pair and teamwork. First think: Work alone silently and note down your thoughts and ideas. Then, pair: Exchange your thoughts and ideas with a buddy. Finally, share: one by one, work through all the thoughts and ideas from each team member, which gives the team the chance to add more content. Make sure to consolidate the individual and pair outputs, or capture the outputs of the sharing session at the end.
    • Solo Brainwriting: Here, all team members silently work and think for themselves, and note down ideas and thoughts on paper sheets, worksheets or Post-it notes. As everyone works in parallel, the team typically produces a much higher output number in a given period of time compared to a team engaging in one of the “brainstorming” styles. Of course, Solo Brainwriting works also for a sole ideator, but it’s more communal doing it together with other ideators.

    • Team Brainwriting: In this communication style, all team members silently work alongside each other in the group and produce outputs (e.g. raw ideas) or throughputs (e.g., associate inputs such as a Morphological Matrix) on flip-chart paper or on paper sheets.

    • Pool Brainwriting: Once again, all team members silently work and think in parallel as a group, but now they exchange the written ideas and thoughts (on worksheets or paper sheets) with their team mates, who then can piggyback on certain ideas or build on other’s thoughts.

    Conclusion: Producing outstanding results in innovation projects is largely a numbers game. An innovation team needs to produce a certain number of outputs, say raw ideas or idea concepts, while working through the different stages of an innovation method to arrive at novel, original and meaningful innovation deliverables by the end of an innovation project. Even if you reach the target output quota, you don’t have a hundred percent certainty that you will always succeed in producing an innovation output that wows your target users.

    However, your odds of success dramatically increase if you use an effective innovation process, select the thinking tools that fit the innovation type that you target with your innovation project, and then also have mastered the art of how to effectively use each tool within the context of the process method with regards to the key parameters (heads: team, solo, pair, small team, large team, or mixed?; feedback: with or without?; team dynamism: static or rotating? output recording: one for group; several per group; or all individual?; interaction styles: brainstorming, round-robin brainstorming, buddystorming, bodystorming, think-pair-share, solo brainwriting, or pool brainwriting?).

    So, facilitating innovation projects is both a science and an art.

    This article is one of 64 sections of The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation, a new book that I am currently working on (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). In our X-IDEAinnovation training courses, we also practice the different innovation communications styles with the training delegates. Innovation trainers can learn the art of comfortably switching between different communication styles in our X-IDEA innovation licensing programs. Contact us if you want to find out more.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.