Use short online surveys to gain direction and validation from your stakeholders before generating new ideas

Authored by Dr. Darin Eich, Ph.D., President of BrainReactions LLC

We are about to innovate. Is there anything missing or something we hadn’t thought of? What direction should we move in? How do we gain quick insight and validation to decide which questions we want to generate ideas on when innovating for new products or services, marketing, or organizational improvement? If you’ve ever thought about these questions before launching a new innovation effort, a short and quick survey of your customers or stakeholders may be what is needed.

One activity to use before formulating your brainstorm questions is to do a quick survey to get both “write in” ideas as well as selected answers. The answers help you validate the direction you are moving in and the write in ideas may shed light on any blindspots and provide something you hadn’t thought of. Gathering a dozen responses to a short survey of no more than five questions that can be done in a couple of minutes can help you zero in on your direction for innovation before the brainstorm and on the concepts to invest development time in later.

SurveyMonkey is an effective and free online tool to help you conduct quick, short surveys to gather insights and validate the direction you choose for idea generation and innovation. It allows for your customers to co-create with you in a more engaging and interactive format. In our webinar series we delve deeper into activities like this to help you innovate in a direction that is co-created and validated by your customers. We share more activities like this the new seminar series package.


Survey Screenshot

To provide a real example, we do online innovation workshops. We are seeking to create new webinars that match our expertise and our client’s needs. The most recent webinar series (http://InnovationTraining.org) we did was created based on feedback and insights from clients on which topics they wanted us to cover and how to cover them. We are now looking for new insights to determine what to create next so we created a short survey. See for yourself and take a few minutes to do this short survey and see an example of a web tool for innovation you can use for free:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=WnApQvAZmevimoKRFFg0gg_3d_3d

The key is to keep it simple. You are looking for a direction to move in and new ideas. A four-question survey can do this. People can fill it out in a couple of minutes. Before generating ideas try to ask people in your network to clarify the challenge that they want solved through the survey. In addition to emailing a group you can also collect short survey insights through Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and other social media avenues that would allow people to simply click on the link to give you feedback on the specific innovation challenge you are working on. A short SurveyMonkey survey can be used before the idea generating stage to identify and clarify the challenges to solve and after you generate ideas on that direction to help focus in on which solutions to invest in developing further.

Developing employees to share in a culture of innovation: Insights from leadership program research

Authored By Darin J. Eich, Ph.D.

We hear from many organizations that they desire a positive culture of innovation within their organizations that relies on the collaboration, contribution, and shared leadership of all employees. At BrainReactions, we have created a program to achieve positive outcomes in this area. During the final three years I worked on my doctoral dissertation studying high quality leadership programs, I was also creating and testing an innovation program for BrainReactions. This was a leadership program designed to help participants learn and engage in ideation and innovation for real purposes.

Like many companies, we highly value creating and sustaining a positive culture of innovation in our organization. Achieving this requires an intentional approach to develop the people of your company as exemplary creators, innovators, and leaders. Our vision with our leadership training program at BrainReactions involved moving from brainstorm sessions to a front end of innovation leadership program. This moves from just generating the ideas to also including training and development of the people who innovate.

In addition to the research of high quality programs, which included interviews of 62 stakeholders across four different exemplary leadership programs, the researcher developed and tested a new innovation program and individual program sessions with BrainReactions brainstormers. During a three-year period of research and testing, approximately 100 sessions where conducted, assessed, and improved accordingly. Sessions were qualitative and consisted of 5-12 individuals per session. Sessions were recorded, transcribed, and assessed for participant engagement, idea quantity and quality. The researcher employed the constant comparative method, an analytic induction grounded theory data analysis technique, to explore the data and construct a theory.

The theory of high quality leadership programs developed in the dissertation study is grounded in those programmatic attributes that, when enacted, contribute significantly to enhancing learning and leadership development. The data analysis revealed 16 attributes of high quality leadership programs organized into three clusters: a) participants engaged in building and sustaining a learning community; b) student-centered experiential learning experiences; and c) research grounded continuous program development. Through the program attributes, participants learn about innovation, leadership and themselves in the course of engaging in the leadership process while reflecting on and applying their new learning and skills in collaborative action with others.

The results of this multi-case grounded theory study of high quality leadership programs could be applied and adapted to enhance leadership development and innovation in a wide range of organizations. This theory will allow organizations to enhance their programs and participants’ leadership development by helping participants improve themselves through self-discovery, personal development, reflective practice and collaborative leadership action with others. This leadership action and learning can be directed towards idea generating for innovation to meet changing needs and opportunities for the organization though helping individuals contribute to and share leadership in an organizational culture of innovation.

To be a high quality program involves anchoring the systems and program in research, both what has happened elsewhere and what you have discovered internally. Our high quality leadership program for innovation that has yielded numerous positive individual, organizational, and client outcomes involves three clusters of attributes for program development. Both the diverse and engaged participants cluster as well as systems learning for continuous program improvement cluster are leveraged for development in addition to the individual centered experiential brainstorming experience cluster.

In essence I recommend more organizations to implement a leadership program that allows all employees to contribute to a positive culture of innovation through participating in innovation together. Programs can be constructed and facilitating using the identified clusters of attributes that matter most for learning and development.

There is a report identifying attributes of high quality leadership programs and how BrainReactions put these attributes into practice for their own innovation program and programs they develop for clients. Email Darin Eich at darin.eich@brainreactions.com for more information or to receive the report.

Forty Tips for Better Online Brainstorming

Authored By Darin Eich, Ph.D.

In the true spirit of online brainstorming, I created a brainstorm on BrainReactions.net and used it as a tool to write this article. I keep the article format as an organized list of tips. You can view the original brainstorm process I used at http://www.brainreactions.net/brainstorms/1556 and even suggest your own ideas or tips.

1. Brainstorming is different than Q&A. It is about multiple ideas instead of a single answer, so approach the process with quantity in mind.
2. Each individual submits multiple ideas.
3. Multiple individuals submit multiple ideas.
4. The person who creates the brainstorm should start it off with at least 5 ideas.
5. Follow the traditional brainstorming rule of going for a high quantity of ideas.
6. Set an individual goal to create 20 ideas (like I’m doing here).
7. Understand that a concept can be broken down into smaller ideas and these ideas can be mixed and matched…so the parts have value.
8. When creating a brainstorm invite others to join.
9. Set an actual structured time for people to log in and brainstorm live.
10. During a live brainstorm it is exciting to see other ideas being added alongside yours, this motivates people to generate more ideas.
11. Set a goal to involve at least 8 people in the brainstorm.
12. Show a previous great brainstorm example to people.
13. Allow people to click a link that shows them an example of a quality brainstorm while they are brainstorming, this will give them a model.
14. Do not judge or put down ideas while you are brainstorming.
15. Click on the “good idea” button for good ideas.
16. Take one of the good ideas you select to the next level.
17. Build and extend on ideas presented earlier in the brainstorm.
18. Quantity is needed first to be able to unleash the power of building and extending, so add a number of ideas even if they may already exist.
19. Google for insights while brainstorming.
20. Stay focused on the question and topic.
21. If an idea is off topic, though, accept it because the focus is on the process.
22. Take a risk by submitting a pretty far out idea…do this intentionally as a part of the process.
23. Submitting a far out idea is fun and motivating and can encourage creativity.
24. Put some motivating music on in the background while brainstorming (see ideas of songs to try in the most ideated brainstorm on the BrainReactions.net website).
25. Drink some coffee while brainstorming!
26. Call a friend for ideas.
27. Try to synthesize previous ideas into a theme to brainstorm from.
28. Try to synthesize a couple of ideas into a further developed concept.
29. Practice brainstorming tools to help you generate ideas, like SCAMPER.
30. Brainstorm from your laptop in a place that is creative and energizing for you…I’m doing this now from my favorite coffee shop.
31. Look around your environment for ideas.
32. Accept the same idea from multiple people, this still has value, it tells you it could be important.
33. When brainstorming online, organize your thoughts and ideas into a logical sequence and present them in that way.
34. Create a mindmap of ideas relating to the topic or question and add them online in a more developed way.
35. Focus on process, your individual process for generating a high quantity and quality of ideas, and the brainstorm process as a whole that encourages different people.
36. Seek a diversity of individuals to submit ideas.
37. Create a question that is open enough that many idea alternatives are possible.
38. Give more background to the question in the space provided; this will help people understand the desired outcome for doing the brainstorm.
39. Use a few ideas here and there to model good ideas that match the question; they can even be existing ideas.
40. Step away from the question for a moment to let your mind recharge and reload ideas and return to power them out.

Unleash the Creativity and Effectiveness of Electronic Ideation in an Online Brainstorm

Authored By Darin Eich Ph.D.

Electronic ideation — coming up with multiple ideas using a computer and software or web application — offers a powerful new tool to innovators. With Web 2.0 internet technology available, a form of electronic ideation known as online brainstorming is also emerging as a “front end of innovation” tool for innovators.

Capturing ideas in a structured fashion can increase efficiency and streamline the innovation process by making the ideas easier to analyze. Electronic ideation is an alternative to traditional brainstorming within an organization, which often conjures images of lame sessions where the first ideas mentioned are often discussed for a long period of time, criticized ad nauseum, and subjected to political and power interests. Unfortunately, many such brainstorm sessions result in few ideas, because most of the time was spent analyzing the ideas and talking about why they wouldn’t work. In addition, people are hesitant to suggest their own ideas in person, especially creative or unconventional ones. Challenges like this give traditional face-to-face brainstorming a reputation for futility within organizations and their culture. Research shows that the brainwriting (writing ideas instead of saying them) approach to idea generation can be more effective within organizations, perhaps because it diminishes the repressive or stifling effects of corporate culture.

Electronic ideation or online brainstorming combines current technology and the benefits of brainwriting for an effective idea generating approach. Structured brainwriting through electronic ideation can work for groups of people, or communities of interest, who may not be in the same place at the same time. Electronic ideation is a conceptual outgrowth of the anonymous suggestion box. Anonymous suggestion boxes have been around for a long time to solicit humdinger ideas at no risk to the contributor. Now the suggestion box can become the brainstorming table for participants who are specifically invited to participate, overcoming space and time limitations. The challenge, instead of dealing with corporate culture, is to motivate people to respond to an invitation, to log into the brainstorm “room” to suggest their ideas. Electronic brainstorming is a tool that can be used in a variety of ways, producing a new surge in ideas from employees.

When brainstorming online, community of interest and response time must be managed properly; place is less relevant. You can conduct electronic ideation with many brainstormers at once; it is scalable from one to thousands of people. More than 10 people around a brainstorming roundtable are extremely difficult to manage, but you could get 1,000 people to log on and submit ideas on an ideation web page that poses your question. You define the community of interest and the brainstormers you invite to participate. These can be the usual suspects in your department or project team, all people in your company, your customers or a user group, or other people across the globe that could usefully suggest ideas. In a world that is flattening, as Thomas Friedman says, a hosted application gives you the ability to get the perspective and ideas from people anywhere in the world 24/7. Also, on the other end of the spectrum there is tremendous value with having a tool that allows people to record their ideas on their own when they generate them.

Response time matters. You can certainly use the electronic ideation tool on a no deadline basis. But having a set time for participants to contribute ideas is motivating and offers the facilitator a reasonable chance to analyze the contributions. Specifying the time limits in the e-mail invitation is very effective in a virtual brainstorming session. Complete the brainstorm in an hour or a day, and then move on with analyzing, testing and implementing good ideas. You can, of course, open follow-up brainstorm rooms to build on previous rounds of ideation.

Electronic ideation frees participants from spatial constraints. Brainstormers could be anywhere in the world, but you could also conduct a roundtable brainstorm electronically. A formal electronic ideation or online brainstorming tool like BrainReactions.net can even allow you to see fellow brainstormers ideas in real time during the session you create. This offers opportunities to build and extend on ideas and to recharge and spark creativity in new directions. What if you brought people physically together in your conference room or a stimulating location and facilitated a face-to-face brainstorm where people entered their ideas into the online software system? This may be a preferred use of ideation software. Imagine gathering a group of 7 to 10 people around a table. One computer is projecting the brainstorm question and space for ideas on the projector screen. Each person enters his or her own ideas. There is no need for the proverbial flipchart sheets and marker that slows the session down to a crawl. Since idea generators are typing their ideas as they conceive them, the pace of idea generation and the quantity of ideas are greatly accelerated. Since each person has his or her laptop the brainstorm session is no longer slowed by 1920s technology of a flip chart and pen.

When someone has a really good idea they could say it aloud as stimulus for extensions of that idea. The most creative people and the most conventional are often reluctant to share their output. Capturing them electronically avoids the tendency to suppress them out of fear or embarrassment. Ideas from the ends of the spectrum are valuable. The creative ones can spawn great innovation and the seemingly boring ideas are most easily understood and implemented.

I challenge you to open your innovation thinking to establish electronic ideation as a part of your innovation system to employ both the benefits of internet technology and brainwriting methodologies. Think of it simply as a tool to capture ideas on your own in your office on your own time. Consider the possibilities of bringing laptops to the brainstorming table. Idea generation is both art and science. Creativity is heightened in great brainstorms. The productivity of brainstorms can be supported and enhanced using tools that come closest to allowing brainstormers, working individually or in groups, to produce and record ideas at a pace much closer to “mind speed.” In group ideation process there is a high correlation between the quantity of ideas generated and the quality of ideas, so speed truly counts. Electronic brainstorming such as BrainReactions.net is an efficient, intuitive way to produce great ideas.

Electronic Brainstorming

Insights and themes about Fortune 500 company innovation from the 2008 Open Innovation Conference

Authored by Darin Eich, Ph.D., President of BrainReactions

I attended this conference as a media partner from BrainReactions and OpenInnovators.net and set out to identify some overarching themes about the current state of open innovation for large organizations. “Advance innovative ideas through partner collaboration and co-development” was the theme of this 2008 Marcus Evans conference. The workshop tracks were labeled “dismantling the ‘not invented here’ mentality” and “establishing a culture that values open innovation at every level’. Some themes that emerged from the conference presentations from innovators like P&G, IBM, Clorox, Pepsico, Kraft, and others include:

1. Open innovation is a very new concept and most companies are just adopting it and learning it. This means there are a lot of failures and process improvements right now and the success stories are just starting. Even P&G which is recognized as a top open innovator is still on the journey and learning.

2. P&G is a leader. Other companies that want to be better at open innovation appear to recruit P&G innovation professionals to work for them thus gaining that knowledge and experience to apply within their own organization. I heard multiple instances of this during the conference. P&G really has an excellent reputation for open innovation with their “connect and develop” philosophy and mandate from the top to get half of their ideas from the outside.

3. Collaboration is critical. Most organizations are shifting to become more collaborative as this is key for open innovation. This also requires a culture shift and new skills to learn for innovators.

4. Suppliers and partners are key. Since much of the open innovation relies on the work of partners and suppliers, finding and assessing them is important to innovation success. Suppliers and partners can not only provide the idea but they can also help to develop the idea, provide the technology or knowledge to make it work, package it, or virtually anything else needed to create and launch a new product.

5. Searching is a key open innovation practice. Many of the organizations that presented today have a focus on searching for technologies and intellectual property that they can acquire to bring their ideas to market faster. This is much more efficient than creating the technology internally. Many examples in particular were given of product packaging that was found in Japan and licensed for use in the United States.

6. Open innovation is transformational and not transactional. Though you are relying on partners and suppliers to help you develop the idea you still must do much work to connect the supplier’s insights in and strengthen the relationship for the future. Open innovation should not be a transaction but rather a transformational experience that helps everyone learn how to innovate better and in new ways.

7. Open innovation is a result of desperation or challenges. Many of the organizations adopted open innovation because they had to. Their business was declining or they had to react to urgent challenges. For many this impetus for change ended up being positive because they launched an innovative new product (like Clorox Wipes) or gained a more efficient development process.

This article is part of the BrainWaves E-magazine on Innovation and Ideation

Beyond a contest for the “best idea”: A case of crowdsourcing through a brainstorming competition

Authored by Darin Eich, Ph. D., President, BrainReactions LLC

Open innovation is valuable because it can harness the perspectives, needs, and ideas of a large amount of individuals, whether they be current consumers of a product or potential users of a website. In order to innovate based on the perspectives of many people, a shift from acquiring the best idea to acquiring idea themes derived from hundreds of ideas from many users or consumers is needed. BrainReactions.net has just launched their first significant open innovation crowdsourcing effort in the form of a brainstorming competition where awards are offered not for the single best idea but for the top brainstormers. In the first few days of the competition there are 500 ideas from 60 different brainstormers. This competition is open for just under two weeks and closes on July 3rd, 2008. This specific competition offers an emerging case of crowdsourcing for the brainstorming purpose of generating multiple new ideas on the launch of a web application, including both marketing and feature development.

Idea Contest

This case offers an opportunity to learn about the process of crowdsourcing for brainstorming. This competition has already generated different outcomes than a traditional closed room in person brainstorming session offers or what a contest where “the best idea wins” offers. First, who is brainstorming? Notably there are more brainstormers than in your typical closed room session and they come with and a more global perspective. For this competition, brainstormers come from throughout the globe with heavy representation from the U.S. and the UK. Since most web applications have a global audience and seek the perspectives, needs, and ideas of a wide range of users, crowdsourcing through brainstorming offers unique advantages. Also, new web applications want an opportunity to generate buzz. The brainstorming competition allows this through the marketing of the idea contest while a closed room in-person brainstorm does not because it is more private in nature. The crowdsourcing offers residual benefits, not just the ideas gathered and the ability to validate the direction and decisions through the voice of the user but the marketing of the competition helps to build awareness and launch the web application.

Important consideration is given to what happens before and after the competition. Most of the time spent with preparing the competition actually involves framing the challenge, creating background information (in this instance a free web based video), and identifying questions for brainstormers to generate ideas on. This takes much thought amongst organizers and the client as well as multiple iterations to finalize the questions and background. Alerting the network of brainstormers to begin was the easiest part as BrainReactions has a large network of creative brainstormers who can be readily notified with an email. It also important to consider what the final product of the competition could look like. BrainReactions brainstorming has slightly different desired outcomes then other contests which seek to generate a best idea. Rather than a single best idea, the goal of the competition is to generate hundreds of ideas from many brainstormers so that ideas could be synthesized and analyzed. The themes that emerge amongst many ideas from multiple brainstormers are often times more valuable than a “best idea” and often marketing and product development directions move forward from these themes. After the competition a team of judges with different expertise bases will also spend time at the end to select the top brainstormers based on the quantity of good ideas they provide. Since a goal of brainstorming is to gather a large number of good ideas to synthesize and generate themes around, going beyond just selecting the best idea is needed. This is a current and emerging example of crowdsourcing meeting brainstorming on the web.

100 Tips for Improving Your Creativity: Top ideas from 15 different brainstormers

Authored by Dr. Darin Eich, Ph.D., President of BrainReactions LLC

A BrainReactions.net brainstorm launched by UKJohn (John Tunney) on “100 Tips For Improving Your Creativity” achieved its stated goal. It generated 100 ideas from 26 different brainstormers. The description of this brainstorm was: “I thought it would be interesting to ask BR Tool users for their creativity tips. Any input is welcome – be it favourite techniques, authors, websites, attitudes you think are essential for creative thinking, etc.”

The following are some of the most popular ideas from 15 different brainstormers tagged with the username of the creative global idea generator from BrainReactions.net. Note that the wording of the ideas, including any typos, have been kept intact below in an effort to maintain the originality of the idea as presented by the author:

Go beyond the word that describes the solution to purpose of the solution, e.g. instead of saying “I need a job,” say, “I need an income.” That frees you from confining boundaries. Ask yourself, “What’s the true purpose of this solution? Is there an alternative way to get that?”
-David_Payne

Ask every question you can think of related to the task at hand, problem or opportunity. This “drilling-down” will ALWAYS produce high-quality possibilities and answers – and crystallize your idea, problem or opportunity so you can produce very clear responses.
-ThoughtOffice

Try using outrageous similes to spark your imagination. Think up some, or read some fiction – either good or bad – to see what kinds of “word pictures” authors have crafted. Two I wrote last night: “ditched them like an empty pack of Marlboros” and “parted out like so many broken down Chevy Citations”. Play off the imagery that is inspired and try making some “like a” phrases of your own.
-Dlock

Mindmap your concepts…it is amazing to see all of the little ideas that relate together to make a big idea. This helps to integrate your ideas and helps you develop more robust concepts in the future
-Djeich

Don’t try to innovate in a vacuum. Look around at similar problems in different fields, and see what elements apply. Often, parts of a solution can be found.
-FreshThinker

Read biographies of high achievers in any field and emulate their thought-process.
-Anandvc

Keep a record of ideas, problems and thought experiments. Refer to the record regularly and sometimes memorise the items so that you can think about them at any time at any place.
-UKJohn

have a time limit, say by 10th of this month i should generate 10 ideas. this competitive thinking will enable you to be focussed and will help generate more ideas.
-soorya

Leverage the 4 fundamentals of Innovation: FUNDAMENTAL 1 – Innovation happens at the intersection of domains and fields, FUNDAMENTAL 2 – Breakthrough ideas come from playing with ideas and forming new connections, FUNDAMENTAL 3 – Incubation is a powerful and important part of any innovation process, FUNDAMENTAL 4 – Brainstorming is a skill to be practiced and perfected
-ThinkCubologist

Switch to unlined paper for all of your meetings, brainstorming sessions, and notebook idea entries. It will subconsciously – and consciously – free you to think differently and more expansively. Also, it facilitates more visual drawing of ideas – not just linear verbal descriptions – which is particularly useful for novel, emergent ideas that are still in the process of forming. Once people experience unlined, they don’t go back :-)
-CreativeEmergence

Go to a nice and new environment where you feel happy and excited, and synergize with interesting people there;this gets the creative cells sparkling. Feeling good and sharing your thoughts open many windows of opportunities. The impossible becomes possible.
-Stephens

Go Random. Where ever you are think of at least seven things… anything, no rules. Write those things down without judging or sensoring. You may use visual, auditory, musical or personal reference, For example, the next thing someone says or the next thing you hear on the radio, song or talk show subject. List those seven things and relate them to you end result. How, Why is it related to your issue. Why? This process opens fresh new pathways to success.
-Huemankind

Consider the opposite: Turn the problem upside down; imagine trying to achieve the opposite; reverse the relationships
-Graham

Backwards script-writing: imagine the result of your idea. how will it look? how it will influence on your market? then, go backwards and look for more ideas to make it happen.
-Ranencarmel

Build a rough prototype. It will help focus your goal and serve as a platform for generating more ideas in creating and extending.
-Emooney

Visit the online brainstorm at http://brainreactions.net/brainstorms/1753 to review the ideas, select good ones, and sort to view the most popular. You can also still add your own tips for improving your creativity.

A simple system for starting innovation: How to make the front end of innovation less fuzzy & more practical

Authored by Darin Eich, Ph.D., President of BrainReactions LLC http://brainreactions.com

Innovation is creativity with a purpose. It is not only creating new ideas but doing so with a specific intention in mind and with plans to actually launch the developed and realized ideas into the world. There are elements of both creation and action. Innovation should be simple, understandable, and open for a wide variety of people to engage in the process. Innovation is becoming more open, less closed door R&D sessions, and more engagement of actual customers, stakeholders, subject matter experts, and employees at all levels in the process. Many organizations know how to launch and sell their products and services but are “fuzzy” on the front end of the innovation process: the stages that deal with creating, analyzing, and developing ideas. That is why it is known as the “fuzzy front end.” The key to making this important beginning stage of the innovation process less fuzzy and more practical is through articulating a simple system with activities that a wide variety of stakeholders and collaborators and can understand and engage in. The fuzzy front end should be more kitchen table and less scientific lab.
Having a clear system is equivalent to systematically generating ideas on purpose. I will share with you the fundamental elements we have learned while developing and implementing a simple “front end of innovation” process. During the past two years we have been training people from over 200 organizations in this understandable process at InnovationTraining.org. We encourage you to learn innovation through doing it. You can practice and use this process to develop and communicate your big idea in a more systematic and effective way. The projects we have done for a wide variety of companies from P&G and the UN to solo entrepreneurs all use a similar system and activities. They all started with a problem or opportunity, led to brainstorming questions, continued with ideas, and led to selection and development of the best ideas…just like you catalyze your own projects in your own organization.

Innovation System

If you want to develop an innovative idea for your project, where do you start? Start with a proven system of innovation best practices. The diagram above shows the steps involved in a basic innovation system that you can use as a starting point. You will then go about this purposefully with a process or system to develop your ideas into more validated and robust concepts. You would typically generate multiple ideas and then synthesize relevant multiple ideas logically together in the form of a well-developed concept.
It is important to capture and store all of these ideas in one place. Also, great innovations are not solitary work. They are the result of collaborations. Involve others to help you generate ideas, develop the concept, validate the concept, and communicate the concept so that it is meaningful and memorable. An example of the front end of innovation can be found in a brainreactions.net private online brainstorming room, you can pose your question, provide background information, visuals in the form of a photo or video, and generate ideas. With the online brainstorming room you can include up to five brainstormers and these brainstormers can not only generate ideas but also vote, select, and sort the best ideas to move forward and develop. This is a way to involve collaborators in your innovation system.
An important start to an innovation project is to crystallize the problems and challenges that you intend to solve. You must pose important questions that are grounded in the problems or opportunities for innovation. Google launched a campaign that solicited concept ideas to change the world. To use Google’s Project 10^100 framework as an example, they offered seven suggested categories and questions:
1. Community: How can we help connect people, build communities and protect unique cultures?
2. Opportunity: How can we help people better provide for themselves and their families?
3. Energy: How can we help move the world toward safe, clean, inexpensive energy?
4. Environment: How can we help promote a cleaner and more sustainable global ecosystem?
5. Health: How can we help individuals le ad longer, healthier lives?
6. Education: How can we help more people get more access to better education?
7. Shelter: How can we help ensure that everyone has a safe place to live?
These are examples of categories and related questions to start. These categories were selected because they offer real problems and opportunity. These are starting places, if your vision is to “change the world” then the seven Google categories and questions may be beneficial starting places for you. Odds are that your questions and categories may be different and related to the problems or opportunities that exist for you or your organization, specific to your mission. These starting places are big questions of their own or can catalyze sub-questions for you to purposefully generate ideas on.
Action to take: Clarify a simple system you will use to innovate. Use the model we are presenting or customize your own. Know that you are engaging in a system to innovate and what that system is. Identify and write down the areas you would like to innovate in. These are problems or opportunities. Research them. Create questions to ask.
———
Darin Eich, Ph.D. is President of BrainReactions LLC and founder of InnovationTraining.org.
This activity is a part of BrainReactions Innovation Training. BrainReactions Innovation Training can teach, facilitate, engage, and guide your team step-by-step through this innovation system and over 30 different interactive activities to help you generate ideas and solve your challenges. You can learn our techniques and activities to do again and again on your own and contribute to a sustainable culture of innovation within your organization. Email Dr. Darin Eich at darin.eich@brainreactions.com to inquire about bringing training and facilitation into your organization or to do an event to capture the ideas of your employees, customers or stakeholders.
Do you want to learn more about systematic innovation? The Systematic Idea Generation for Innovation 4 part online workshop series has been popular with 200 different companies seeking to learn the language of innovation and generate new ideas. You can start this webinar series today at http://innovationtraining.org. Other webinar programs are available on Brainstorming Techniques and Idea & Concept Communication.

Innovating Your Professional Life

Innovating Your Professional Life

Authored by Darin Eich, Ph.D., President of BrainReactions LLC for InnovateYourself & the Brainwaves E-magazine
http://brainreactions.com

Sometimes we assess our professional lives and realize that we have just been operating a metaphorical machine for an extended period of time. This machine may not even be a real machine but what we discover is that our work, our organization, or our processes have become a bit stagnant or repetitive. We lose our excitement or even hope for the future because nothing is changing. We are doing the same thing every day, every month, and every year and this has become bothersome. We are doing precisely the same service, making the same product, doing the same marketing, giving the same speeches, and asking the same question every month and every year. When this repetitive stagnation happens it not only adversely affects our professional life but also seeps into our personal life. Hey, most of our personal lives revolve around our professional lives anyway, so when that isn’t good, little else is. What people need is change. This is the first thing. Staying in ruts is no fun, getting out of them is.

But change for what? Just change for the sake of change? Well, if we are stagnant, sometimes even change for the sake of change is a good thing because it starts an action. It will add a little bit of air and movement to break the stagnation and stops the mold from growing. But what is powerful, what can be downright compelling, is change when you have a vision, change when you see a potential for a purpose, change when there is a goal that attracts you and others like a magnet. When there is a new challenge, this awakens something in you. It may be fear, but that usually comes about first anytime change happens. So, connected to that fear is excitement and also a newfound hope and perhaps, invigoration, in your professional life. This vision, this purpose, this goal gives you a destination to strive for. It gives your mind a reason to start thinking again. This can be invigorating for anyone!

What is the ultimate for a person’s professional life is this thing called innovation. Innovation is changing. Innovation has a goal, a goal to get better. Innovation can happen in a lot of different contexts. You can innovate new or existing products. You can innovate your marketing. You can innovate your services. You can innovate your business processes. You can innovate your organization as a whole. Most compelling, motivating, and inspiring is that you can also innovate yourself as a person. Yes, all of these things have the capacity to change, to grow, to develop, and to improve in slight ways and in ways that you can’t even tell the difference!

Work and organizations can be stifling. People complaining about their jobs and companies are as common as conversation. Some of the people who work at the large established bureaucratic organizations are full of great life though. This is because they work in innovation. They are concerned with innovating products, services, and everything else. They look to innovate everything they see and realize that they, with others, have the capacity to actually do it. They have that challenge, that goal, that purpose, and that vision in their professional lives and I can see the difference in these people. My conclusion: innovation is good for a person and involving yourself and others in innovation in your organization and life is a positive change.

Where do you go from here?

1. Assess. Is your professional life stagnant? Is there a lack of change or growth in the stuff that you do and in your organization, heck…in your own life too?
2. If you assessed that yes, change is needed…well change for what? What can be changed for the better? A product, service, process, organization, or you? Perhaps all of these things could use innovating.
3. What is the purpose connected to a vision connected to a goal for this change?
4. Start innovating.

OK, so what does “start innovating” mean? To say “I’m going to innovate” is exciting, certainly. Saying this to yourself in the mirror each morning is a little weird but will probably have some good effects. I’m a leadership geek. I’ve studied leadership for a number of years and it is a really fuzzy thing that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Innovation is similar to leadership. They both have some similar meaning and they both get a “huh” response when you ask people for a definition. What I’ve found to be helpful is to take this fuzzy concept and break it down into its parts. So for innovation, let’s break it down into some different stages. Many different organizations and individuals define innovation in different ways, have different systems, and have different parts of these systems. In general though, some similarities exist.

Let’s break it down simply.

Stage 1: Identify the opportunity or problem that will lead to the innovation. This requires some hard thinking and some research. What exactly is it that you are trying to innovate? Is this the correct thing that you should be going for? Make sure that the “innovation for what?” question is answered here and gather a fair amount of information. This is your background research stage.
Stage 2: Formulate questions. Because you’ve done stage one you should have a much more thoughtful understanding of the situation, problem, or opportunity. Start breaking that problem down into it’s pieces and formulate corresponding questions. So, if the problem is that nobody knows about your organization and thus cannot do business with you, a simple “how can we get more people to know about our organization?” is a question that can be broken down into “who do we want to reach”, “what we want them to know,” “how do we communicate this message,” “how can we use the internet to communicate this message,” etc. There are a lot of ways you can break down the problem once you’ve gone through that first stage of understanding it and thinking about it.
Stage 3: What I like best; it is the “coming up with a bunch of ideas” stage. You do just that. Take each question, organize them in a way from more general to more specific, and come up with a bunch of ideas for each. Utilize many different ways of coming up with ideas from just writing some down on your own to using a group brainstorm if possible. The goal here is to literally come up with hundreds of ideas.
Stage 4: Make meaning of all those ideas you came up with and analyze them.
Stage 5: Develop some solid concepts in greater detail.
Stage 6: Test out those concepts and develop them further based on feedback.
Stage 7: Take action and do what you had set out to do in the first place. Execute the marketing plan to increase awareness about your organization, if we refer back to the previous example.

Innovation is fun work and also challenging work. It is much easier to do if you can break it down into the stages and take each stage at a time. Many times organizations start but don’t finish. So do each step at a time and make sure you move up the steps and finish and actually take action! If you go through the stages what you will be taking action on should be pretty good because you studied and clarified the problem, you formed great questions, gathered a number of ideas, made meaning and analyzed the ideas, developed solid concepts, tested those concepts and improved them even more. This leads to a breakthrough innovation! Start innovating!

Interactive Workshop Description: Tools & Techniques for Facilitating Groups — Activities, Discussions, & More

Tools & Techniques for Facilitating Group Discussion & Activities

This session will introduce tools and techniques for facilitating group discussion and activities. Participants will engage in different types of facilitation and discussion and identify the challenges that they expect to face. Participants and the facilitator will generate ideas for how to achieve the desired group outcomes and some time will be given for students to practice engaging in facilitation and discussion using some of the tools and tips.

How do you get a group to engage in activities, discuss leadership topics, and learn? As a facilitator you will be able to both participate in activities and discussion as well as facilitate. How do you get the activity started quickly and guide the flow? How do you engage all of the voices to share somewhat equally? Learn tips, tools, and techniques for facilitation and engage in different activities at this fast past experiential session.

Learning Objectives:
1. Participants will identify facilitation outcomes they seek to address.
2. Participants will identify and learn tools, tips, and techniques to address these desired outcomes
3. Participants will build and practice with a toolkit of simple and effective facilitation tools.

This program is available in both video form and as a live workshop or retreat. Contact Darin@DarinEich.com for more.