How much does it cost to share new ideas?

October 14, 2014

I was surprised and amused to read that some Saskatoon residents recently created a website to collect suggestions for a name for a new bridge (www.namethatbridge.ca).  The funny part about the article was that the group said it took them 10 minutes and $20 to launch the site, after a city report said it would need $30,000 to do it.

When it comes to sharing new ideas, let’s keep things simple. Grab a whiteboard and start brainstorming.   Pick a blank wall in your office and start putting up post-it notes. Create a new email address for people to share their suggestions for innovative new processes and products.

Getting started with sharing ideas can be easy and fun, as demonstrated by the residents of Saskatoon.

Is your innovative idea truly useful?

In his book “The Truth About Innovation”, author Max McKeown defines innovation as “new stuff made useful.”  However, an idea doesn’t necessarily need to be completely unheard of to be new.   Sometimes we are talking about ideas that are borrowed from other industries and create a big impact.   For example: convenience stores are open seven days. Not a new concept.   However, when TD bank started opening some of their branches seven days a week, the change had a huge impact on their customers. The bank’s innovation resulted in an enormously attractive proposition for customers who work Monday to Friday and couldn’t get to the bank during the previous schedule of banking hours.

The beauty of the TD Bank idea is that it created real value for the customer, or, relating it to the definition above, it was “useful.”

That’s a key point. To be innovative an idea must be new AND useful. Yet, who defines usefulness?

Take, for example, the restaurant chain that recently opened in my neighbourhood. I’d never heard of it so I went to see what was on the menu. The place is called Chino Locos. Their new idea is selling burritos with a Chinese twist. One innovative option is getting chow mein noodles in your burrito.

While this IS new, as someone who loves burritos, it all struck me as novelty just for the sake of it. The way I see it, replacing the rice in a burrito doesn’t really add value or create a superior burrito.   However, the restaurant’s profile on yelp.ca shows it has a 4-star rating from over 100 reviews. Since there are quite a number of people who seem to love it, evidently Chino Locos is an example of innovation. It’s a new idea that is useful (or enjoyable) enough to justify its existence.

This is key. In order to innovate, we need to regard our new ideas in a positive light. If we judge them too quickly as “not really new” or “not useful enough”, we may be overlooking exciting possibilities that will help our customers and grow our businesses.

I move, therefore I think

June 26, 2014

What do you do when you get stuck in a “thinking rut” or have a deadline looming close ahead with the project far behind?  Even if we know we need a break, most people stay seated at their desks.  They feel they have to stick with it to get it done.  So, some gnaw the tips of the pencils and pens.  Others check their emails for the fifteenth time, answering trivial messages, just to feel like they’re making progress.  It’s all basically time wasting in the hope that when we return to the job at hand, things will have improved.

Interestingly, lots of research flies in the face of this methodology.  It appears that moving, yes, physically getting up and moving around, may be one of the best things to do in such circumstances.  When we take a moment to think this through, it begins to make sense.  After all, as Michelle L. Marigliano and Michele J. Russo stated in their paper, “Foster Preschoolers’ Critical Thinking and Problem Solving through Movement”, one of the techniques used to build critical thinking and problem solving in preschoolers is creative movement.

Movement causes several important positive effects.  For one, it increases blood flow to the brain, “waking it up” so we can think more effectively.  For another, it energizes our bodies, putting us in a better frame of mind for working.

The next time you feel some movement would help, why not try one of these easy-to-do options.

Chair Yoga

For those whose bosses frown on them leaving their cubicle or office too often, chair yoga is a great option.  You can find visual instructions on YouTube, or written information here.

Two for the Time of One

In his book, “Play”, Dr. Stuart Brown suggests taking a mood-improving walk.  If you take a walk to the water cooler for a refreshing drink, not only are you moving, but you are also hydrating.  Did you know that when the brain doesn’t have enough water it works less efficiently?  Were you aware that the majority of people don’t have enough water in their bodies?

Make Time to Smell the Roses

In his book, “Presentation Zen”, Garr Reynolds gives advice on how to improve creativity.  Applying his ideas here could look like the following: Get out of the building.  Focus on whatever nature is at hand in order to calm your mind and see the big picture.

It took me some effort to give myself permission to get up and move around.  Now that I have gotten into the habit, I find it easier to be creative, get work done and enjoy my day.  I encourage you to allow yourself the freedom to move during work time.

 

Why you should care about Design Thinking – Athena Alliance Radio Interview

May 17, 2012

Design Thinking is a fresh way to look at innovation.   It’s about creating the opportunity for something really new that meets the needs of the end user in a desirable way.   Design Thinking involves analytical thinking AND intuitive thinking – it requires both logic and creativity.    Are you looking for a way to delight your clients and customers?   Are you interested in creating new and exciting products and services in your market?     Cindy Stradling of Athena Training and Consulting interviewed me about Design Thinking on her BlogTalk radio show – check it out here: http://bit.ly/JmEWZ7

Let Your Unconscious Mind Do the Work!

April 30, 2012

Have you ever made a quick decision and then regretted it?  Have you ever left a meeting and thought after of a great comment or insight that you could have shared?

When do you come up with your best ideas?  Have you ever had a great idea when:

  • You’re about to fall asleep
  • Driving (and it’s relaxing!)
  • Going for a run
  • Chatting with a friend about an unrelated topic
  • In the shower

Our unconscious minds need time to incubate to respond to challenges and opportunities and to make good decisions.  David Allen (of “Getting Things Done” fame) wrote in his newsletter about two psychologists in Amsterdam (Dijksterhuis and Nordgren, 2006) who published research that indicated decisions made after the unconscious has had time to process the inputs are always better.   I also wrote in an earlier blog entry about how going for a walk is part of my creative process.

Here’s how to let your unconscious mind do the work:

  1. Present, read or discuss information relating to the situation.
  2. Brainstorm either alone or in a group.  Get your ideas flowing.   What ideas may be useful?  DON’T ask for a decision or agreement to a solution.
  3. Take a break.  Do something completely unrelated to the topic at hand, particularly any activity that will help you relax. Don’t even TRY to think about the situation.  However, if ideas come up, let it flow.    Make notes of any solutions.
  4. Bring your ideas back to your client, team or office.   You’ll probably find your ideas flow more easily and you are more confident in your decisions.

This is most useful when there’s an important decision to be made, or an opportunity or challenge to respond to.  Decisions about what to have for dinner can probably still be made in the moment!

  • Sign Up For Insights