I just returned from Saul Kaplan’s 9th Business Innovation Factory (BIF-9) Summit in Providence, Rhode Island — where, to my blissful surprise, I had just as much of a transformational experience as I had at Burning Man this year. I love it when so many conscious people gather together and indulge in the realm of possibilities and the certainty of optimism.
Amidst the hundreds of insights that were shared, one of my favorites came from TED creator Richard Saul Wurman. He shared these 5 simple ways to catalyze idea generation, easily remembered by looking at his face (ANOSE):
Addition: Add something new to your process, product, project, or whatever it is you’re trying to create new value around. (I’ll call it the “entity” from now on.)
Need: Explore the needs of the people who engage with the entity now, or might encounter it in the future.
Opposites: Whatever it is you’re doing, try doing the opposite! He gave the example of peeling a banana. Even though humans tend to peel bananas from the stem part, did you know that monkeys do the exact opposite – and peel from the stumpy bottom part? Apparently it’s a much more efficient way to get to the fruit inside.
Subtraction: Take something away from your process, product, project, or whatever it is you’re trying to create new value around! Too much of a good thing can sometimes inhibit the creation of new value.
Epiphany: Sometimes you just have those explosive “a-HA!” moments — and you should pay attention to them! It was an epiphany that led to the branding of the iconic Trapper Keeper in the mid-80’s… over martinis. (Thanks to Siva Vaidhyanathan for raising my awareness about that story.)
This reminded me a little of TRIZ, but with fewer mental gymnastics required. And easier to remember if you’re stuck on a desert island (or in a conference room without coffee).
How can our company be more innovative? How can I help to catalyze innovation? These are popular, relevant and contemporary questions. And like many of the other challenges we have to deal with in our organizations (and our lives), these questions are simultaneously tricky and nebulous.
The answer: for your organization to be innovative, YOU have to PERSONALLY tune into your innovation frequency. If you’re feeling it, you will be better able to identify great ideas, get into flow as you think about and work on these ideas, and be more willing to let go of ideas or projects that aren’t great (or ideas that maybe just aren’t at the tipping point yet, or that are not totally aligned with who YOU are, or that someone else should ideally be working on).
I started thinking more about these questions because I was inspired yesterday by Create Better Things by Abandoning Crap and Focusing on the Good Stuff. The secret to success is laser-sharp focus on accomplishing something you love, along with the willingness to let go of things you might love but that just aren’t moving right now – or just aren’t moving you. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from this article and video:
- “You have to be critical about getting to the parts that go right to your heart.”
- “The only reason you get into something like this is because you want to make something so memorable that it’s special.”
- “To make something great, you have to find the courage to ditch the things dribbling along at half-past average. “
Tuning into the innovation frequency requires not only external assessments, but internal assessments of progress as well. The external assessment asks you to evaluate whether progress is actually being made. Can you see it? Can you measure it? The internal assessment asks you how you FEEL about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. Do you get into flow, and if so, how easily? If working on a project feels like sticking fingernails in your own eyes, this is probably a good sign that your energy would be best directed elsewhere.
Result: no New Year’s Resolution for me. I’m taking on an Old Year’s Resolution, and using the month of December 2010 to prune away all those activities that are not progressing OR that I’m not totally tuned in to the innovation frequency. I’m on a mission to get all the fingernails out of my eyes, pronto.
I owe it to all those great ideas and efforts that will soar when I become courageous enough to close doors on the past, and let new unknown doors open before me. Those truly innovative and exciting outcomes that even I don’t know about yet deserve a rich, full life.