I have an absolutely unshakable belief in the “ideas organisation”, which is why I get so pissed off by organisations that only want to perpetuate a winning formula.  They just don’t get it, do they?  The facts are indesputable, a winning formula is only winning when its new and original, once its old-hat or plagarised the value dissappears FAST and that’s getting to mean a realy short shelf life for most businesses.  As I have said many times before – “Your organisation is only as good as your NEXT big idea”.  Move on!

Of course, when your organisation is structured and geared to perpetuating the routine, its not easy to climb out of the rut.  This is noticeable at every level of an offending organisation.  In my Brand Discovery workshops I always start with an exercise designed to help delegates break the mold.  A quick and simple demonstration of how it feels to think normally.  Yes, normally, because normal thinking is what drives creativity.  The problem that we have is that we mistakenly belive that the way we think every day is normal.  Well, wake up and smell the coffee, you aren’t normal, you are conditioned!

Jennifer Goddard reports on BNET this week on Mr Mindmapping, Tony Buzan’s conference that she attended in Singapore, where he spoke of an experiment in Utah that pitted under-fives against graduates in a creativity test.  I think it is a rather old and well-known piece of research that he refers to, where the under-fives won 95% to 10%, thus proving, or so it would seem, that we start creative and have it beaten (read educated) out of us.  In one of my favourite presentations on TED, Ken Robinson promotes just this thought.

So with all this stuff working against you, how are you going to create your ideas organisation?  The way I see it, its not about workshops and brainstorming, useful though they may be once you are an ideas organisation.  Sadly, I usually find these things are more “last chance saloon” than “brave new world” and tend to find their way onto the agenda about the time an organisation realises it doesn’t have a hope. 

Great buinesses have idea generation in their DNA, or rather “idea liberation”, because the ideas are always there, hiding away in the corners of the minds of your employees, the task is to set them free.  How do you do this?  Well firstly you have to give them, value.  

We all have ideas, all the time.  Small ones, big ones, funny ones, evil ones, even profitable ones.  The reason that they don’t ever see the light of day is because we are embarassed to express them!  Why embarrassed?  Well, I guess that’s one of the mysteries of social conditioning, but basically most ideas are pants and we just can’t live with that.  We’re so insecure that we can’t bear the thought of people knowing that we had a stupid idea.  How how stupid an idea is that?

We have to learn the value of mistakes.  I’m sure Michaeangelo didn’t just turn up and knock off the Sistine chapel first attempt.  He must have had a warm up, a trial run, scrapped a few attempts even,  Shit, nobody’s that good!  So get real.  And the reality is that there are loads of crap ideas, but every now and then there is a really great one and it isn’t always obvious at first encounter which is which, so you have to give them all an airing.

So, if you want to be an Ideas Organisation, and, frankly, these days no organisation can afford not to be, the first step is to value ideas,  Sounds obvious, but take a look around you, it doesn’t happen.  We still value only the good ones and snigger at the people who come up with the runts.   We forget that, good or bad, all ideas are worth something because without the hopeless ones you won’t ever discover the great ones.  How do you gt to this, well, hey, I get paid for this, so If you want the “how”, hire me!

Once you have achived this though, step two involves creating the conduit through which the ideas are funnelled into the system.  What system?  The one you create in step three that’s what system.  Too fast for you?  OK, here’s it is again,

  • Step one – value ideas.  Convince yourself that ideas are always good and some are great.
  • Step two – build a communications conduit.  Two-way so that you can persuade your stakeholders that you value ideas, then they will too and as a result they’ll bring them to you.
  • Step three – develop a way of presenting the ideas.  Its important to help people express their ideas in the nearest to business terms they can get, and anyway, its a good business discipline training exercise for them.
  • Step four – Create a test process.  All you need do here is decide how these ideas are going to be explored, the stages that you will go though to minimise risk (Yes, of course there’s risk, the smart guys minimise it though)
  • Step five – establish criteria for judgement. You need to be able to tell as early as possible in your exploration whether an idea will fly, so you need a set of criteria.  You might choose generic ones that support only your Brand Model, or you might design a different set for each idea or every stage in theexploration process.  
  • Step six – Implement.  Its amazing how many great ideas get put on hold, until the time is right.  The time is NOW!  And, if you are facing difficult times such as we all are now, the time was yesterday, so you’ll have to move fast to catch up!  Every time there is recession in any part of the world the guys who push ahead with idea development end up being the winners.  Check the facts.

Now you’re “cooking on gas”.  You are an ideas organisation!  You’re not?  Didn’t like it then eh?  Oh well, it was just an idea!

Michael Weaver
September 18, 2008

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