Better than Brainstorming – Part 2: 4 MORE Ways to Ideate

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We’ve all been in a brainstorming meeting where a few people throw out ideas for the solution to a problem. While this is better than doing nothing, these meetings are tough. Often, it’s hard for us to come us with new ideas on the spot (that don’t suck). Not to fear! This is the second part of our take on some better brainstorming techniques. Part 1 goes over 4 new ways to help you and your team generate new ideas, and this second part has four more (because you can never have enough ways to generate new ideas).

Better than Brainstorming – Part 1: 4 Ways to Ideate

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For many of us, the most intimidating part of the innovation process is coming up with ideas. That uneasy feeling is the Innovation Myth at work. We’re all familiar with Hollywood depictions of geniuses having a bolt of insight that leads them to create the next big thing. But where did that bolt come from? Divine inspiration? Good genes? When it’s our turn to come up with great ideas, where are they supposed to come from?

How 4 Industry Leaders Use the Power of Purpose to Innovate

In a previous post we gave you some steps for how to find your organization’s purpose and why having a purpose is scientifically proven to help your team be more innovative. As a follow up we wanted to share some real world examples of these purpose-driven organizations.

Your Organization’s Purpose is Not a Goal

Alright think for a moment about your organization’s purpose. Got it? (And no, those crappy business jargon mission statements don’t count.)  If not, keep thinking for the next few paragraphs…

4 Steps to Finding Your Organization’s Purpose

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Today, business gurus focus on terms like mission, culture, and innovation as the keys to organizational effectiveness. And they’ve done a good job of getting these terms out into the zeitgeist. But there’s a problem: these words are easy to repeat but hard to put into practice. When it comes to mission statements, we struggle to come up with the perfect words to inspire the people within our organization. When it comes to company culture, we struggle to define what our culture even is and to identify what could make it better (other than more dogs in the office, of course). And when it comes to innovation, we struggle to find the right formula to produce the next great thing.

Currently, the vast majority of organizations’ mission statements are essentially “to become the market leader and maximize shareholder value.” This kind of thinking leaves organizations susceptible to new competition and discourages innovators from coming up with novel ideas because it’s so focused on the organizations’ current lines of business.

Swiping Right. Finding Your Dream Job.

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In some ways, the relationship between you and your job is like a romance. When things first start out, everything’s new and exciting. This energy creates a burst of passion that you’ll find engaging and can help you produce some really innovative work. But as with all relationships, the newness is fleeting, and your honeymoon stage eventually comes to an end. After this initial spark fades, you need to find a way to sustain your passion for the organization you’re a part of. If not, your inspiration will suffer. There’s no quicker way to kill creativity than to be working on some project you couldn’t care less about. And things will only get worse from there. Eventually your apathy will turn into resentment as you think about how much good you could be doing if only you were part of a different organization. Once you reach this point, it’s time for the break up.

Because we all know that breakups suck, you’re probably asking yourself, “How can we avoid this? How can we have a successful relationship with our job so that we can continue being creative?” The answer’s a little complicated.

Welcome to the Innovation Economy

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Innovating has always been an important human activity.  It’s led to tools and agriculture and cities and an ever-increasing quality of life.  This work was — in the past — largely the domain of the privileged few.  Kings and queens spurred innovation by spending money to create ever-advancing ships, castles, and weaponry. Even in the Industrial Age, only a few families had enough wealth to afford the kind of education that empowered James Watt and Thomas Newcomen to create the steam engine. Only people and organizations with enough resources were able to create the next great thing.  

But we’ve now reached an inflection point in the evolution of innovation.  No longer the bastion of the elite, innovation is being democratized.  Every year, individuals from humble backgrounds break onto the scene with billion-dollar companies. Take Instagram.  The photo sharing app was built by a pair of entrepreneurs in their twenties over the course of just eight weeks.  Two years later, they sold their company to Facebook for a billion dollars.  Of course, Instagram isn’t the only story of David defeating Goliath.  Slack, Uber, Netflix, and hundreds startups like them faced competition from some of the largest corporations in existence — but they all won.

Why is this change happening? Three societal forces have pushed us to this inflection point: Abundance, Access, and Automation.

The 4 Fundamentals of an Innovation Framework

baller Photo by Chelsea Ferenando via Unsplash

Learning How to be an Innovation Baller

We’re going to veer off in an odd direction, but stick with us for a minute. Let’s talk about basketball. (If you’re not a big basketball person, that’s okay; pretty much any sport will work for this, but we’re going to go with basketball). So to set the stage, let’s say you have a big game coming up against your arch rivals. Leading up to the game, you spend hours practicing your shooting and ball-handling skills. Then practicing passing, rebounding, and specific plays as a team. Game day arrives, and you are feeling pretty great at this point; there’s no way you’re going to lose. Then the whistle blows and the game begins. You’re shooting and playing defense almost subconsciously at times. You definitely haven’t forgotten everything you practiced, but in a game-time scenario, the other team is putting you in more situations than any team could possibly have practiced for. This forces you to just play the game and act on your instincts. Sometimes things go the way you want and other times, not so much.

What’s Love Got to Do with It? How Passion Fuels Innovation

Park FountainPhoto by Regan Vercruysse via Flickr

In 1999, an architect named Michael moved from London to New York, a city where he knew no one. However, in just two short years, he developed a close connection to his transplant city and its community. Then, on September 11, 2001, his life was changed forever. Like every New Yorker who was fortunate enough to have survived the attacks, he was deeply affected and began questioning everything around him.

Not knowing what else to do, he began walking the city. He stopped at a small park with group of fellow New Yorkers looking at a public fountain. Surrounded by strangers silently listening to the flowing water, Michael felt a moment of peace amid the weight of the attacks and a deep connection to everyone around him. He didn’t know it at the time, but it was during this moment that he began searching for a solution to his problem – a way to help New Yorkers overcome their anxiety and sorrow after the tragic events of that day. This peaceful moment formed a passion within Michael. And it would be this passion that would take his career to a whole new level and help him defy all odds (but more on this later)….

Why Innovation is Hard

So innovation is this super important thing, right? Without it, we wouldn’t have microwaves or modern medicine; we’d still be living in a world where we have to use our hands to flip a physical switch to turn on the lights. Almost 80% of CEOs say innovation is key to the growth of their companies. But with all of our hopes of future profit and driverless commutes, there’s just one problem: innovation is hard — like really, really hard. In fact, CEOs also consistently cite innovation as one of the greatest challenges facing their businesses. So what’s going on here? Why is coming up with new things so dang hard?