Innovation: Only ONE Idea?

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Leaders often wonder why their company is so slow to innovate new products and services or why they can’t solve nagging daily problems more quickly. The answer could be that they only have one idea to work with and that the company has not addressed common constraints to innovation.

Two of the constraints frequently faced by companies are the constraints of individual creative thinking and the constraints found in cumbersome and unfocused group processes.

Individual Creative Thinking. There are two types of creative processes: left brain, vertical creativity that takes apart and puts back together and thinks sequentially like dominoes falling, and right brain horizontal creativity that bounces from one idea to another like a ball in a pinball machine until landing on a perfectly revolutionary idea. Both are necessary to keep your organization innovating and competitive in the 21st century.

While it is true that individual brains are predisposed to vertical or horizontal thinking, both processes can be taught. As employees learn creativity principles and enlarge their toolsets, they learn to think in vertical or horizontal ways, depending on what the situation demands and the most effective type of thinking for the current challenge they are facing.

One of the most important creativity principles for team members to learn is to look for more than one right answer. Often when trying to solve a product problem or innovate a new service feature, the team will come up with one good idea and quit thinking, eager to move the process to the next stage of critiquing implementation and ensuring they meet their deadline.

If they would take a deep breath and look for the second and third great ideas, they may be amazed that the third idea makes the most sense and provides the most profitability for the company. Unfocused Group Processes. Brainstorming, which is a free-for-all of ideas, needs to be followed by a discussion of those ideas to focus on the most viable options by asking questions such as:

  • What is our goal with the innovation?
  • What is the most practical idea for implementation?
  • What costs are involved?
  • How long will it take for implementation?
  • Who will champion of the idea?
  • Can it gain support from sales and marketing, R&D, and management?

Once an idea is critiqued and accepted as the best option, the real work of implementation begins. Contrary to the brainstorming stage where right brain thinkers can dominate, left brain thinkers tend to lead the implementation phase.  It is important to note, however, that each phase becomes a cycle of creative thinking, critiquing and assessment of potential actions, and execution, requiring the thinking of both vertical and horizontal thinkers at every stage.

What does your organization think about innovation? Is the item “innovate product” on a manager’s checklist and when an idea to make the product is implemented, the item is checked off, never to be revisited? Or is innovation woven into the very fabric of the organization? The organization that weaves innovation into daily conversations with every employee evaluating, pondering, assessing products and services for effectiveness in the global marketplace, recreating and reinventing on a regular basis, is the organization that will remain competitive and viable in the 21st century global marketplace.

To invite Karla Brandau, CEO, to speak at your next event or training workshop, call 770-923-0883 or send an email to Web site: Facebook: Twitter: @Karla Brandau

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