How to create breakthrough ideas – simple reminders for the front end of innovation

The Way Out, or Suicidal Ideation: George Grie...
The Way Out, or Suicidal Ideation: George Grie, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How can you expect to give your best, most imaginative ideas when you feel like a deer caught in the headlights –  eyes glossed over feeling anxious, fearful, panic, confused, or downright uncomfortable because on top of everything else, new ideas mean you’ll have more work. It may also mean that you’ll be committing something akin to suicide for all the effort you’ve invested so far.  Stress can cause you an ideation freeze.

To overcome business ideation freeze, some organizations

  • Involve customers in their ideation process
  • Look to other industries to see how they involve their customers in new ways
  • Focus on customers unsaid needs
  • Involve suppliers in product ideation (to bring your unmet needs to the table for a collective partnership).

If you want to create a new pathway for innovation crack through old thinking for creative new ideas that could lead to creative new decisions. Rather than waiting for the world to change, you can initiate the change by taking an alternate (i.e. a creative) approach to meeting innovation challenges. Personal approaches to new thinking may open doors of potential, you can apply your responses to theme and gain insight into the business job at hand.

I use questions similar to these as inspiration for creative thinking, to overcome the ideation freeze, to build flexibility for productivity. Here’s how it works:  After you answer one question about personal needs and values, connect the responses to an innovation challenge at hand.  What I like about this approach is it connects the person to the project and encourages engagement and ownership.  Let me know how it works for you.

Personal Needs and Values Questions

  • If you could plant a seed that could grow anything, what would it be and where would you plant it? Is it a seed of professional success in a garden of education? Is it a seed of love in garden of kindness? Is it a seed of world peace in a garden of compassion?
  • What makes you feel happy without any effort on your part? What would you do if you inherited ten million dollars? What would you do if you had all the time in the world?
  • Imagine that an alternate route suddenly appears in your life (past or present). Where would it take you? Where would you like it to take you? If you could learn a new language or any new subject, what would it be?
  • Tune into your feelings about your family and see where those emotions carry you without using any words. What makes you feel safe? If your home was on fire and you could only take one object with you, what would it be?
  • See yourself as a little child sitting on a giant throne bathed in golden sunlight. The world is waiting for your command. What would it be?
  • Break big issues (problems or aspirations) into small pieces and move them around like a puzzle. If you could be an expert at anything, what would it be?
  • Take the other side in any argument or debate. What if you believed in a religion, philosophy or political point of view opposite your own?
  • What attribute (brains, beauty, athleticism, practicality, etc.) does someone else have that you want? What would you give in exchange for it?
  • What belief would you fight for? Where are you always right? If you could travel anywhere in this reality or in any other dimension, where would it be?
  • What would your life be like if you made all the rules? Where would those rules be: work, home, government, etc? Where would you make the most progress by being more disciplined?
  • What is your vision of the perfect friend or colleague? Where do you want more cooperation in your life? If you could change an organization or group, what would it be and what should be changed?
  • How can you tell the difference between reality and a dream? Where does your spirit end and the next person’s begin? Who is the hardest person for you to forgive? What is the one thing you’d like to be forgiven for?

With thanks to Jeff Jawyer for the insights.