Question 5 of the Seven Questions Innovative Leaders Ask

from the Break Through, Vol. 1, Post 12

Often times, after brainstorming 753 ideas for new uses of a red party cup, folks ask, “okay, what’s the point? What do we do now?” Indeed, you just generated a lot of ideas. Some of them are quite outlandish.  Others are far-fetched, but they just might work with a little tweaking. Several offer definite creative possibilities.  And a whole slough are common, boring, and unimaginative.  Perfect.  Your process of evaluating your ideas has begun.

In this step, we want to use the power of Convergent Thinking, a process in which our analytical and critical tendencies take center stage.  As we whittle down the 753 ideas to, hmmmmm, 10(?) transformational solutions, it’s helpful to have a few guiding principles:

1) Utilize affirmation as you scroll through your list, what stands out to you?  What ideas might have potential?  What ideas can you see working with? Transfer these to a new list.  Chances are, several dozen, (or in the case of the red cup, several hundred), ideas have faded into the background.  Without generating too much negative energy, you’ve simply let ideas go.  Affirming ideas in this process helps to …

2) Keep novelty alive by not automatically dismissing every outlandish idea.  When you scroll through your list, one of these might stand out to you, you might get the smallest inclination of “this could work,” or an intuitive feeling that the seemingly wild and crazy idea is the break through. Avoid letting your overly-critical side get the better of you: hang onto those potential break throughs.

3) With your new list of easily implementable ideas, creative ideas, and somewhat outlandish ideas, test your objectives, goals, and values. What are you trying to achieve with this innovation?  Do some of the ideas you’re working with conflict with organizational or personal values? Are the ideas outside of the scope and scale of your responsibility?  Are they good ideas, but maybe not right at the present moment? Or maybe the ideas aren’t innovative enough? Often, testing ideas against your objectives, goals and values places ideas on a spectrum instead of a good/bad scale.  Take the ideas that are testing the best and move forward.

4) So last, stay focused. Highly creative people, and people engaged in this creative process can easily get distracted.  An idea might arise that is far outside your objective, and wow would it be fun to pursue, but this is the time to stay on track. Now there’s no need to trash this idea as you might follow it later on when you have more time or capacity.  For now though, set it aside and move triumphantly forward towards making your vision a reality.

If your list of ideas is still unruly, repeat this process again.  During the 3rd guideline, you might construct a more rigorous testing or evaluation process.  But remain positive, and if a gut feeling continues to pull you towards one of those really novel ideas, keep it on your list.