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Innovation & ideas

posted May 18, 2013, 2:06 PM by Jageshwar Tripathi   [ updated Aug 11, 2014, 12:19 PM ]
Innovation and idea generation can happen at individual level or sometimes organizations promote innovation and idea generation. At individual level you can follow certain best practices which can help you find out an idea and work on it to make it mature. Organizations need ways and means to promote innovation as well as give them a shape.

As an individual how to keep your idea factory running?

We as individuals get different ideas at different point of time but often we are not able to catch them up and sometimes even we catch them we don't work on them, we leave them and forget about them. Very basic question is are you willing to come up with some ideas and new ideas? There are many people who first see what are they going to gain from any thing, those people if look at short term gains can hardly become source of new ideas. If you are getting something from your routine work and your bent of mind is such that you look for immediate benefits why will you take any pain in thinking about an idea? So first things important is that you are a person who is interested in igniting his idea factory. Now comes a question where can I get an idea from and how can I get that idea?

Find out problems in daily life


You don't need to put lots of effort to find out problems in your day to day work, daily life, your customers business. Consider every situation as a problem and thing how can it be solved? Didn't get an idea? Just note down the problem first and wait till the time you see a solution?
Even if you see a solution to a problem, it should be considered a problem. Consider needs of people, industry, groups as a problem in this case. An activity or task, work and routine can be considered as a problem.

Try to find out the solution

If you have the problem, most probably there should be a solution already existing. don't worry, if you see the problem interesting and you also see a solution, question how differently it can be solved? Solution can be a better way of doing something or making existing solution better more efficient, cost effective and easy to use.

Don't get in to trap of originality

Thinking about whether what you are thinking is an original idea or not, whether it already exists should be avoided. There are chances that what you are thinking would have been already done by some one but stopping yourself and in the first step searching for same thing done by some one or not is a bad idea. Note down what comes to your mind and you may have many solutions, options in your mind withing few days. Filtering out the solutions and selection of a better idea can be done later.

Critical thinking

Looking at a problem and the way it is solved ask yourself why it is done this way only? Why not differently. Why to book a hotel or restaurant seat through phone only? Why a bank account holder can get his ATM or Debit CARD only after few days of filling out the registration form etc. These out of the way thoughts made banking different. Earlier routine way of working was entirely different.

Knowledge is important

Without knowledge of the related field it is difficult to generate effective and better ideas so coming up with idea without getting knowledge of the related field may not result in to great value. Study, read and get more knowledge of the field you are related to or willing to come up with ideas for.

Be informed of new trends and developments

Keep in touch with new trends in the industry, market, technology related to the field you are interested in. A new trend may generate another idea, a new technology may support a better way of doing something else for which the new technology was even not aimed at. Know the trends, read blogs, magazines and journals regularly. Don't just read them when you are thinking about an idea but make it a habit.

Listen what others are saying

Talk to the end users, customers, peers to get information how do they work, what are the challenges they face and how are they dealing with them. Do it regularly and you will come to know about many innovative ways your customers and users and using to deal with situations and this may inspire you to come up with an idea to handle those situations.

Research of the related field

When you have a problem and you want to solve it, you have got some ideas, start searching the related field. Research may include focused search of literature, work doe earlier in the field, past researches and talking to experts, users and related people. This research is different then what is said above about listening to other or getting the knowledge. Regular reading, study or communicating with the people provides you lots if information and ideas but when you have a problem and some ideas, research is focused on that topic and solution. 

As an organization how can you promote idea generation?

Are you really serious?

Ask yourself why do you want to promote idea generation? Is it only because you read somewhere that every organization should put some effort in innovation and come-up with new ideas for their products etc? Do you want ideas to come up free of cost? Do you consider people in your organization as labourer who you expect to be maximum utilized ( 9 to 6) and after that those machines should come-up with some ideas?  It may sound bad but many organizations expect innovation and ideas without knowing what are they looking for and what is the cost of (to invest in) it. If culture in your organization is: to some how get involved in a work, be allocated to some task, why people will contribute in innovation. They can do some paperwork to fulfil this requirement of the organization but only to save their jobs that is it. You know yourself, after years of running innovation drive what did you achieve and still you don't want to accept that, culture of your organization or your approach is not suitable for innovation. 

You have to decide if 
1. You want to be an organization who is a factory, producing number of items and treat employees as machines who produce those items or 
2. You really want to be an organization who is willing to invest (ready to pay for it) on people, using their minds, creating something. Account of their every minute and hour is not very important to you as an organization.
You should be first serious and know the reality of your organization.

Ready to invest?

As said above expecting people to work for 9 to 6 in their assignments and also come up with new ideas will not work. You will have to stop counting minutes and hours of atleast those who can innovate. Giving time  to those who are innovators means less routine work from them, means some investment of that time in innovation. There can be other types of investment too. You want your people to do some innovation on new technology areas but before that they don't have infrastructure or machines to test already existing things how can they think about something better.

Appointing a Vice President can not ensure innovation

Innovation should be in the genes of the organization, it should be in culture. How to make it possible read on...

Let your people know you are looking out for ideas

Communicate that organization is looking out for ideas, not only in a certain area but in any aspect of life.

Listen and consider

Listen to what people are saying. Acknowledge that their voice and idea has reached and is not going to be in dustbin.
People either don't come forward or stop from next time considering their idea or voice is going to be in dustbin.

Channel of communication and support

Email is not best way to capture and communicate. There should be a proper and easy way to share the idea. At the same time further assistance should be available/provided to those who come up with raw thoughts to make their thoughts polished and useful. Some kind of training to the people can help and these trainings should happen often.

Recognize and reward

If you consider it important, reward those who come up with great ideas. If you keep comparing routine work of innovators with average 9-6 workers why would they come up with ideas in future. Every one will keep focusing on 9-6 routine to save his job and increment.

Ideas should not only be a lip-service

Ideas should be given a good shape and should be implemented. If you have considered an idea as good to be implemented at first place decide about its success criteria, ROI and plan for its implementation. Without success criteria and ROI if ideas are selected, die their own death after few months or years and people stop believing on this concept or process and then slowly idea generation and innovation initiative itself dies-down in the organization.

Here are some techniques

  • Brain writing
  • Creative whack pack
  • Force field
  • Heuristic ideation
  • Hexagons of interest
  • Morphology (break and recombine)
  • Mind mapping
  • Role play
  • Wishful thinking

There are many others for which (and detail) look at the links bellow.

Interesting resources and references

http://www.mycoted.com/Category:Creativity_Techniques
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideation_%28idea_generation%29
http://www.thegraphicdesignschool.com/blog/graphic-design/idea-generation-techniques-mind-mapping-for-graphic-design/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2012/12/31/6-ideas-to-promote-innovation-in-your-workplace-this-year/

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