Working in the world of innovation and creativity you hear a lot of talk about ‘ideas’. In the vernacular of innovation, the emphasis placed on ideas is overdone. It’s Saccharin sweet. You can see this in the cynicism some people have towards brainstorming: there’s a perception that it’s all happy clappy fluffy hot air and no action. Personally I think they’re right to be cynical. The real challenge is that most people are jumping to the middle of the creative process (probably because there’s a thing called brainstorming they’ve heard of and that’s what they associate with being creative in a team). All too often the start and the ‘end’ of the process are skipped over – the two most important place to invest time.

Those two places are:

  1. Making sure you’re understanding and answering the right problem
  2. Making ideas happen

Let’s look at these two in more depth.

1. The problem in hand.

Making sure you’re rethinking the problem and there’s agreement that it’s the right question is critical. Without investing time in this first step of the creative process you’re guaranteeing yourself results that won’t drive success. This part of the process involves doing research to understand what’s already been tried, what’s worked already and identify the ‘white space’ of innovation in order to evolve new directions. It’s also about reframing problems and looking at issues from an end-user perspective.

2. Making Ideas Happen

People frequently get excited by the possibilities that divergent thinking creates. This kind of thinking creates a bright new colourful space where before the world felt closed and monochrome. Feeling like this brings a sense of wellbeing and team purpose where before there may have been resentment and doubt. Unfortunately, once you’ve experienced this a few times and not seen anything come of the creative activity, it’s natural to feat the ensuing disappointment again. There are many reasons brainstorms frequently lead nowhere:

  1. There was no plan in place for following through on new ideas – the brainstorm is an end in itself
  2. The creative process is kept too ‘safe’ and are not deemed worth pursuing
  3. The natural fear of implementation of the new world that may exist if this new thing were to come to fruition
  4. Introverts were left out
  5. Naysaysers block ideas that have been thought of before or feel too crazy
  6. A lack of experience of taking ideas to reality
  7. Seeing the next bit as a simple, comparable step when in fact it’s the start of a journey with many steps and activities in itself

What creative strategies have you found to ensure you’re tackling the right problem, and to making ideas really happen?