Okay. You’ve decided to be innovative. You’re the Chief Innovation Officer. You’re a Digital Disruptor. You’re innovating from the top down and the bottom up. You’re ready to jettison everything you have, everything your company has, so you can leap out in front of the competition.
All you need now are some ideas. Hmm.
All the innovation experts tend to skip over that part. Where do you get your ideas? (Author Harlan Ellison got so tired of this question from fans that he used to say he got them from an outfit in Schenectady — only to have the people then ask him for the address of the organization.)
Here are some ideas for jump-starting your ideas.
- Simplify (our favorite, naturally). Author Matthew May suggests painting a compelling picture composed of a minimum of information, forcing our brains to fill in the gaps, instead of overwhelming us with detail. “Every journey of innovation should include several stops along the way to ask if the current solution can be simplified,” notes the blog Innovating to Win. “This question alone has the power to drive high-value innovations.”
- Virtualize. Malcolm Frank writes in GigaOm that many successful companies in the computer industry have become successful by finding ways to "virtualize," or separate, information or a process from the way it’s been done before. For example, Google virtualizes information from its various sources, and Amazon virtualizes customer service. What are things that your company or its competitors do now that could be broken apart and made more efficient or effective?
- Flip. Jake Sorofman of Gartner suggests taking the way things are done now and flipping them around. For example, open-source software companies take the notion of selling software and instead give the software away and sell support or other services.
- Subconscious Ideation. It’s a fancy way of saying shut up and let your brain think about problems on its own. Darin Eich offers several techniques, such as thinking about ideas while you’re asleep, in the shower, exercising, or meditating.
Other sources list numerous ideas for generating ideas:
- Arcball Product Design offers 16 techniques for innovation, as well as links to more detailed descriptions of how they work. You, too, could learn “transmogrification” or “biomimicry.”
- Innovation Styles separates 12 innovation techniques into four groups, noting that people tend to prefer one group or another. “Modifying and Experimenting idea-generation techniques begin by gathering facts, details, and other data. Modifying builds on what is known, while Experimenting combines the components in new ways,” the company writes. “Visioning and Exploring idea-generation techniques start with an intuitive insight, hunch or hypothesis; then they gather information to confirm and fill out the intuition. The difference between these two techniques is that Visioning searches for a clear mental picture of the future, while Exploring often employs symbols to sense what is metaphorically possible.” The company goes on to show three examples from each group, as well as provide a more detailed description of each example.
- Finally, Mycoted — a company dedicated to improving creativity and innovation for solving problems — provides what it calls a repository for creativity and innovation. It includes “tools, techniques, mind exercises, puzzles, book reviews, etc., that is open to all — and can be written by all.” Currently it offers 192 web pages of various creativity techniques.
Only 192? Perhaps the first ideas to generate are more ideas for that list.
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