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  • 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. 


  • What innovation types fit your cognitive style?


    A new year is always a new beginning in business and in innovation. In the coming months, many companies will start new innovation project initiatives. They will compose innovation teams assigned to work on specified innovation challenges, such as creating an innovative product, designing a better customer experience, exploring new distribution channels, or designing impactful promotional campaigns, among others. We can distinguish the nature of such innovation project cases by a) the underlying innovation type and b) the desired impact of the innovative change they seek to produce. But did you know that people’s enjoyment of, and performance in, a particular innovation project depends on their preferred cognitive styles and innovator profile? Today, let’s explore what TIPS innovator types tend to fit to what kind of innovation types.

    Introducing the TIPS innovation profiling method

    TIPS is a new innovation people profiling method that I created for my innovation company Thinkergy. The method helps people to identify which of the four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) they are naturally attracted to, and also determines their preferred styles to think, work, interact and live.

    Based on the online test results, a person is assigned one of 11 TIPS innovator profiles that fall into three categories:: four pure profiles that rest on one base (Theorist, Ideator, Partner, Systematizer); six dual profiles that play on two bases (Conceptualizer, Promoter, Organizer, Technocrat, Coach and Experimenter); and one multiple profile (All-Rounder) that balances all bases. 

    Introducing the spectrum of modern innovation types

    In the past, innovation mostly focused on only two innovation types (product innovation, process innovation), but in the last 2 decades, a wide spectrum of modern innovation types has emerged that allows companies to innovate in many different ways:

    • Operational innovations target to improve internal processes and operational structures. The related innovation types are process innovation and structure innovation.
    • Value innovations focus on producing new, original and —in particular— meaningful value propositions (products, services, solutions, customer experiences and dreams (or as Tom Peters calls them, experiences plus)). Innovation types that target new value creation are product innovation (sometimes also called new product development), service innovation, solution design, and customer experience design.
    • Leverage innovations fall into two categories that are led by different bases:
      • Innovation types that leverage through multiplication allow you to multiply the impact —and revenues— of an innovative value through new distribution channels, new platforms, networks and strategic partnerships, and innovative business models. Related innovation types are channel innovation, platform and network innovation, and business model innovation.
      • In contrast, innovation types that leverage through magnification aim to make an innovative value offering appear to be even more valuable through a strong brand and exclusive image, thus allowing for higher prices and profit margins. Innovation types that enhance value through design include brand design, image campaign and promotion design, and packaging design.
    • Strategy innovation aims to reposition a business for sustainable and superior growth by working on all previous four levels (superior new value offerings produced at lower operational cost and leveraged with modern channels and design).
    • Finally, social innovation aims to improve the lot of the less fortunate members of society and the environment.

    Larry Keeley discusses ten innovation types in a book titled The Ten Types of Innovation. In an earlier blog article, I expanded on Keeley’s ten innovation types and categorised them as described above. In this connection, please note that before you start a new innovation project targeting a particular innovation type, you should be aware that you have to follow certain application rules of the innovation types game. 

    How the different innovation types relate to TIPS

    Dependent on your TIPS innovator profile, and your related dominant base or bases, you tend to relish certain innovation types more than others, and are likely to perform well in these innovation project that cater to your TIPS “home base”:

    • Operational innovations are largely Systems-driven. If you’re profiled as a Systematizer, Organizer, Technocrat or Systematic Experimenter, you’re likely to enjoy working on innovation projects targeting internal processes and operational structure.
    • Value innovations are dominated by the profiles at the Ideas-base. Ideators, Conceptualizers, Promoters and Imaginative Experimenters dominate innovation projects that aim to create meaningful new products, services, solutions and experiences that delight customers.
    • Theories-based profile types (Theorists, Conceptualizers, Technocrats, and —to a lesser extent— Systematizers) appreciate if they can apply their quantitative-conceptual cognitive style to innovation types that leverage through multiplication (focusing on new channels, networks, platforms, and business models).
    • In contrast, innovation types that leverage through magnification (brand, campaign, promotion and packaging design) are often driven by the profiles at the Ideas- and People-base (Promoters, Ideators, and Partners). Strategy innovation projects are spearheaded by the conceptual profiles at the TIPS bases Theories and Ideas (in particular Conceptualizers, but also Theorists and Ideators).
    • Finally, the profiles surrounding the People-base (Partners, Promoters, Organizers and Coaches) love working on social innovation initiatives. 

    How innovations differ in their impact of change

    The TIPS bases help explain not only what types of projects the different TIPS innovator profiles enjoy working on, but also the degree of change that they naturally prefer. Innovation equates to a positive change and a departure from the status quo. Thereby, different innovations vary in the degree of positive change that they produce. 

    We can categorize innovations into three different intensity levels based on the impact that a change has: incremental improvements (typically of an existing product marketed to an existing user base), evolutionary innovations and revolutionary innovations (disruptive new products allowing a firm to wow existing users and convert new customers). Moreover, evolutionary innovations can be further differentiated as to whether they focus on adding new value to existing users, or if they extend an existing value offering to new customer groups. These differences can be mapped out in an innovation-impact type matrix that is shown below. 

    How much change do innovators at the four TIPS bases prefer to produce?

    Depending on their dominant TIPS base, different innovator types feel comfortable with —and prefer to produce in an innovation project— a certain degree of innovative change:

    • The innovator profiles at the Systems-base (Systematizer, Organizer, Technocrat and Systematic Experimenter) tend to focus more on Incremental improvements by practicing a more adaptive innovation style. They are satisfied with incremental change because in general, they prefer preserving the status quo.
    • In contrast, the dynamic innovator profiles surrounding the TIPS base Ideas (Ideator, Conceptualizer, Promoter and Imaginative Experimenter) like to drive bold, radical change. They really enjoy pushing for revolutionary change and creating disruptive innovations, which they find more exciting than satisfying with an evolutionary innovation or —how boring— wasting their time and creative zest in projects targeting only incremental improvements.
    • Finally, the profiles at the Theories- and People-base can support either the incremental innovation efforts at the Systems-base or the more revolutionary innovation projects of the Ideas-base. But what they really enjoy most is working on projects targeting evolutionary innovations. Thereby, the profiles surrounding the Theories-base prefer to create more and new value to existing users, while the innovator profiles surrounding the People-base enjoy looking for novel ways to extend existing value offerings to new user groups. 

    Conclusion: Before you start a new innovation initiative, determine a) what innovation type the project focuses on, and b) how much change you target. Then, assign a person with a suitable innovator profile to lead the innovation initiative. Finally, invite those people to join the innovation project team who naturally enjoy this type of project based on their TIPS innovator profile, base orientation and related cognitive styles.

    Are you interested in determining your personal TIPS innovator profile? Or would you like to learn more about how to apply TIPS in business and innovation in an experiential 1-day training course, The TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop? Contact a TIPS Certified Trainer and let us know more about how we may support you.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018


  • Play “The Dating Game” to Find New Growth

    Discovering new meaning for an established product with a stagnant or negative revenue outlook is like re-entering the dating game. This metaphor underlies a new thinking tool called “The Dating Game” that I’ve created as a new addition to our X-IDEA Thinking Toolbox. Today, allow me to share with you how you may the dating analogy to find new ways to reinvigorate sales of a flailing product.

    The background story

    A few weeks ago, I was in Germany to kick-off the first phase of a X-IDEA Innovation Project with a Multinational Corporation. The workshop focused on the initial stage of our X -IDEA innovation method, Xploration. We sent three project teams on an Xplorer’s Journey to get a new take on a high-performance product that until now has enjoyed profitable growth. However, almost all sales are concentrated in one application that is due to be replaced by a technical innovation that most clients are predicted to switch over to in the coming years.

    As such, the teams explored the wider emerging market field to understand what other applications, market fields and business models could be considered to extend the product’s lifecycle.

    We invited the teams to check their assumptions, asked lot’s of provocative questions, made them look at the challenge from different angles to identify new opportunities and unmet customer needs, and mapped out trends as well as potential market fields. All these activities helped the teams to gain novel insights into their real challenges related to this niche product.

    For this workshop, I also created a new thinking tool called “The Dating Game” — a popular US TV show ran from the 1990s to the 1990s — to help people look at their product with fresh eyes. In the end, I decided against using it because some delegates were too conservative. But as I trust the readers of this column to be creative at heart, I am sharing this new tool with you now.

    Step 1: Characterize your dating client

    Imagine a struggling product as a person who —after the break-up of a long relationship— re-enters the dating game to find new love. How would you describe your product’s attributes?

    • What’s it’s essential nature? How old is it? Young, middle-aged or old? Is it male, female or maybe transexual? Modern-progressive or conservative-traditional? Dynamic or static? Small or large? Heavy or light? Fashionable and stylish or old-fashioned and classic? Hip or time-honored?
    • How does it look? Clear, black-and-white, uni-color or very colorful? Light or dark? Sharp or blurry?
    • How does it sound? Soft or loud? Slow or fast? Low or High? Far or near?
    • How does it feel? Soft or hard? Hot or cool? Rough or smooth? Intermittent or constant?
    • How would it smell? Strong or faint?Pleasant or unpleasant? Natural or chemical? Floral? Musky? Sweet or sharp?
    • How would it taste? Mild or strong? Spicy-hot or bland? Salty? Sweet? Bitter? Sour?
    • What other attributes come to your mind?

    Once you have identified the fitting attributes, use them to write a compelling, attractive dating profile for your product.

    Step 2: Describe the attributes of your ideal date

    Imagine the new application, customer or business opportunity for your product were a person you’d love to date? What are the characteristics or your ideal date? List down all attributes of your ideal date. List them all.

    Of course, while we dream of finding the perfect partner, we rarely get everything we’re looking for. As such, go through your list of attributes and underline those that your date really must have to be the right fit. The fewer “must haves” you insist on, the broader your pool of possible candidates. Once you have narrowed down your list, create one or —even better— a few target profiles to use.

    Step 3: Do a make-over

    Now go back to your product’s dating profile and take a critical look at it: How attractive is your product to these target dates? Does it need a makeover? New profile photos? A physical tune-up to boost your product’s attractiveness? Write down any ideas you get here.

    Step 4: Specify appropriate dating channels

    Nowadays, people use both traditional and modern activities, venues, media and communication channels to find love, beyond just going to a pub or club. Ask friends for recommendations and introductions. Go to networking events. Enroll in clubs and classes. Use a matchmaking service. Use online dating platforms like Match.com. Use dating apps like Tinder. And use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and maybe even LinkedIn, to befriend potential dating targets.

    How does this all relate to your product? What’s the equivalent of all the aforementioned activities, events, places, brokers and communication channels when it comes to your product? How can you discover and hook up with potential target dates for your product — and vice versa? Remember that dating is a numbers game: the more channels you use and the more dates you go on, the more potential opportunities you have.

    Step 5: How to wow your date and start a relationship?

    Now that you’ve identified fitting activities, events, channels and media, how do you wow dates at your first sight? How can you present your product’s attributes at their best? How can you make your dates reveal their secret wants and needs? Can your product satisfy them? If yes, in what ways? How can you explore a mutually satisfying future? How can you co-create a win-win partnership? And how will you know that you’ve really clicked?

    Once again, add fresh insights and initial ideas on how to transform a date into a lasting, mutually satisfying partnership. Finally, at the end of the Xploration, extract your final challenge that you want to work on in a subsequent IDEA workshop introducing the remaining four stages of X-IDEA.

    Do you have a good product with declining sales? Would you like to extend its lifecycle by playing the dating game? Are you interested in doing an innovation project by having us expose your team to our systematic innovation method X-IDEA? Contact us to tell us more about your innovation needs.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Escaping the GIGO principle of innovation

    Last week, I began planning a comprehensive innovation project with a client. This project is of a high importance for this Multinational Corporation, which is seeking for new applications in new industries for a highly profitable product that is now locked into one industry and one application niche. The first challenge in this complex innovation project, I told the client, would be to understand —and escape— the GIGO principle of innovation.

    What is the GIGO principle?

    GIGO stands for “Garbage in, garbage out”. Originating from the domain of computer science and information technology, the GIGO principle describes the following fact:

    If you input unintended, even nonsensical, data (“garbage in”) to a computer (operated by logical processes), then it will unquestioningly produce undesired, often nonsensical, output (“garbage out”).

    In more than a decade of working on over 150 innovation projects, I’ve seen how GIGO also applies to the field of innovation in five dimensions: project, process, money, time, and people.

    The project dimension

    The project dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation goes as follows:

    If you input an unintended, even nonsensical, innovation case at the start of an innovation project (garbage in), then it will produce undesired, often nonsensical, ideas and innovation outputs (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the project side?

    • When you plan a new innovation project, ensure that it is relevant, realistic and meaningful for both your organization and key project stakeholders. Ask yourself: How to make key stakeholders rally behind this project? How to make participants feel eager to take part, and look forward to starting?
    • Identify the main innovation type you intend to pursue (e.g., process innovation, product innovation, service innovation, customer experience design, campaign design, business model innovation, or strategy innovation, among others).

    The process dimension

    On a meta-level, we can formulate the process dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation as follows:

    If you use an incomplete or dysfunctional innovation process for an innovation project (garbage in), then it will result in incomplete or substandard ideas and innovation results (garbage out).

    Moreover, every innovation process consists of different process stages, and employs thinking tools that innovation teams apply while working in a stage. As such, the process-related GIGO principle of innovation has a corollary on a stage-level:

    If you enter an insufficient quantity and/or poor quality of inputs into a process stage of a well-structured innovation method (garbage in), then it will produce too few, substandard outputs and results at the end of this stage (garbage out).

    The same holds true on the tool-level: Even the best, most carefully selected thinking tools will produce undesired, or even nonsensical, outputs (“garbage out”) if you input low-quality information (“garbage in”).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the process side?

    • Select and use an innovation process that is well-structured and complete, and that measures inputs and outputs on different levels (such as Thinkergy’s awards-winning X-IDEA method).
    • At the end of a process stage (or a thinking tool-exercise within a stage), make sure that you have outputs in a sufficient quantity and an adequate quality before you move on to the next stage (tool).

    The monetary dimension

    Going through an innovation project requires an adequate budget investment, which leads us to the monetary dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation:

    If you run an innovation project on a shoestring (garbage in), then your pennies will buy you only third-rate delivery partners with faulty innovation processes and limited experience, leading to suboptimal innovation results (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the monetary side?

    • Relate the budget to the relative importance of the innovation project (high, medium, low).
    • Hire external innovation professionals with effective process methods to facilitate projects of medium and especially high importance. Recall David Ogilvy’s advice: “Pay peanuts, get monkeys”.
    • Ensure you budget can also pay for a functional event space and for the logistics and travel costs related to the innovation events.
    • Quantify the potential financial benefits of the project, such as estimated revenue and/or profit margin growth. View your project budget in relation to these desired benefits to arrive at an adequate level. For example, a project budget of USD 100,000 seems like a lot, but when viewed in relative terms against expected project benefits (say, USD 50 mio), it translates into a tiny fraction (here 0.2%).

    The time dimension

    Good thinking leading to great innovations takes time. All too often, businesspeople underestimate the time needed to do an innovation project adequately (a phenomenon related to a cognitive bias known as planning fallacy). This leads us to the time dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation:

    If you provide inadequate time commitments to an innovation project and each of its stages; garbage in), then it will produce half-baked outputs and results (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the time side?

    • Relate the time commitment to the relative importance of the project (high, medium, low). Consider the following minimum number of innovation workshop days for each importance level: one event day (low), two to three days (medium), and four to five days (high).
    • For high importance cases, spread the innovation project out over a couple of months. Invest time upfront for a thorough immersion during an initial Xploration phase. It will pay dividends later on, ensuring that your innovation teams can address your real innovation challenge, which typically differs from the one you initially perceive to be your challenge.

    The people dimension

    The right number of the right people create great innovation to improve people’s lives. Last but not least, this notion is reflected in the people dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation:

    If an insufficient number of, or the wrong type of people work on an innovation project (or a particular process stage; garbage in), then they will produce too few or suboptimal ideas and innovation outputs (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the people side?

    • For innovation projects of medium or high importance, have more than one innovation team (comprising eight to 10 members) working on the project case in parallel.
    • Optimize the people side of innovation: Use cognitive profiling tools (such as Thinkergy’s people innovation profiling method TIPS) to invite people to each innovation process stage who have a natural talent for the type of thinking required in that stage. For example, when applying X-IDEA, I noted that conceptual thinkers do well in the initial Xploration stage; creative thinkers shine in the two creative stages Ideation and Development; critical thinkers help a team to get real in the Evaluation stage; and operational doers get things done in the Action-stage.
    • For highly important innovation projects, broaden viewpoints and the pool of ideas by inviting topic experts (e.g., scientists, futurists, trend scouts) and external collaborators (e.g., clients, suppliers, creative agency partners).

    Do you plan working on an important innovation project in 2017, too? Do you want to escape the GIGO principle of innovation? Contact us if you want to find out how we can guide you towards meaningful innovation results with our systematic innovation method X-IDEA.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • Why using one creative process stage leads to dull ideas

    When you “brainstorm” for ideas with a team, do you typically deliver conventional ideas that —if you’re honest— you could have got without dedicating extra time? Well, the reason you ended up with these ordinary low-hanging fruits doesn’t mean that you and your teammates are not creative. Rather, it means that you used an ineffective process — if you used a process at all.

    Most innovation process methods don’t allow you to move beyond the “obvious” ideas — the ones everyone else in your industry also thinks of first — because they use only one creative process stage. Today, let me explain how you can move from ordinary ideas to extraordinary ideas by adding a second creative stage to your innovation process.

    The unspoken problem of most innovation processes:

    Most innovation process methods have only one creative process stage. For example, the classic Creative Problem-solving (CPS) model labels this creative stage “idea finding”; the models of Bragg & Bragg, Clegg & Birch or VanGundy call it “idea generation”; and the popular design thinking method names it “ideation”. In all these process methods, this sole creative process stage is directly followed by a stage used to critically evaluate the ideas and select the best ones for further implementation.

    “That’s precisely how we always do it, too”, you may be saying. “So what’s wrong with that?” Well, you’re likely to end up with a low number of ideas that are all safe, sane and set.

    What causes the problem?

    When generating ideas, innovation project team members are supposed to follow four ground rules of ideation suggested by Alex Osborn, the famous advertiser and inventor of Brainstorming and other creativity techniques:

    • #1. No killing of any idea. Defer judgment.
    • #2. Go for idea quantity as it breeds quality.
    • #3. Shoot for wild, crazy, funny off the wall ideas.
    • #4. Combine and improve on ideas.

    Unfortunately, it’s difficult to comply to these four ground rules if your innovation method has only one creative process stage. Why?

    Why using one creative stage isn’t enough

    If idea generation is going to be followed directly by evaluation, how likely are you adhere to all ground rules of ideation? Quantity over quality, no idea too wild or crazy?

    Most probably not. It’s highly likely that your inner voice of judgment dismisses any wild idea the very moment you think it — and you won’t write it down. As such, you end up with fewer ideas overall — and most of them are ordinary or even boring.

    There is another problem related to using only one creative process stage: Suppose that against all odds, you had really mastered all your courage to adhere to the ground rules of ideation. If there were only one creative stage, would you be likely to select any wild idea for further in-depth evaluation?

    No way! You would kill all wild ideas right at the beginning of the critical evaluation phase, as you regarded them as useless to resolve your innovation challenge.

    Interestingly, a wild idea is often the seedling of a truly outstanding idea. That’s why we need to have two creative stages to make an innovation process really work and move beyond the same set of conventional ideas.

    The solution: Move from one to two creative stages

    Thinkergy’s X-IDEA innovation method is designed to move beyond conventional ideas by introducing a second, distinctively different creative stage, Development. In X-IDEA, the creative process flows as follows.

    • First we investigate the innovation project case in the Xploration stage to gain novel insights into what our real challenge is.
    • Then, the first creative process stage, Ideation, emphasizes idea quantity. Here we make an effort to produce hundreds of raw ideas (including many wild and uncommon ones) in a playful, fast and furious atmosphere.
    • In the second creative process stage, Development, we take our time to transform idea quantity into quality. Here it’s our job to design and develop a smaller portfolio of two to three dozens of novel, original and meaningful idea concepts.
    • Next, we evaluate the pros and cons of our idea concepts in a critical and realistic stage,Evaluation. Now we’re finally allowed to judge our ideas, but not before.
    • Finally, we take Action on those ideas that we selected for real-life activation

    How exactly to does the second creative stage work?

    In the Development-stage, we discover, design and develop to turn idea quantity into idea quality:

    • First, we discover intriguing ideas within the large portfolio of raw ideas generated during Ideation.
    • Then, we use these intriguing ideas to design realistic idea concepts through refinement, combination and transmutation.
    • Finally, we develop these designed concepts further by looking for ways to add even more value to them.

    Just like during Ideation, we also must follow four ground rules in the Development-stage. While ground rules #1 and #4 stay the same as before, two rules are changed compared to Ideation to reflect the altered objective of the Development stage:

    • Rule #2: Go for quality, and take your time.
    • Rule #3. The more meaningful, the better. Shoot for valuable, useful, realistic, meaningful idea concepts.

    Lesson: A creative process can unfold its magic only once it consists of two creative stages. Continue using a conventional, ordinary innovation process method with one creative process stage if you only want conventional ideas. Or switch to an unconventional innovation process method with two creative process stages (like X-IDEA) if you want to get unconventional, extraordinary ideas.

    Contact us if you want to learn more about how the two creative stages of X-IDEA may help your innovation teams to make the leap from ordinary to extraordinary ideas.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article is published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 26 May 2016.