Creating an Ideas Factory

February 13th, 2013 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Ideas | Innovation - (1 Comments)

Ideas FactoryMany people come up with ideas on a daily basis. However, they don’t capture the ideas in a written or electronic journal and the ideas soon dissipate.

The process of generating, capturing and implementing ideas is the basis of innovation. Ideas can solve problems within organisations but can also generate opportunities for new products and services, innovative business models and organisational systems, and novel marketing concepts. Ideas also help organisations keep an eye on the future by anticipating future trends and technologies and applying these ideas to deliver the needs and wants of the future.

The concept of an “ideas factory” can be implemented within an organisation to capture the wealth of ideas generated by individuals but also ideas that come from customers and other external sources. Some of these external sources could include the internet, publications, competitors and suppliers.

How do you create and implement an ideas factory within your organisation? Following are some of the key steps in creating and implementing an ideas factory within your organisation:

  1. Create a culture that supports and encourages the continuous generation and flow of ideas. The continuous flow and capture of new ideas provides organizations with a source of new products and services, product improvements, and novel processes that contribute to the organization’s survival and growth. Creativity is therefore an important key driver of innovation by providing new ideas and new ways to solve organizational problems.
  2. Develop a well defined ideas management process – Generating, Capturing, Processing, Evaluating, Implementing and Measuring Outcomes. Organizations need to adopt a formal ideas management process to capture, develop, evaluate, protect and implement ideas and suggestions, which form the foundation of new opportunities that satisfy needs and wants in the market.
  3. Provide the skills and tools for employees to develop competencies. Harnessing the creativity of the workforce forms a critical component of an innovative culture. Professional development of employees should include skills development in creativity tools and techniques. Furthermore,  creating an environment that encourages participation, learning and fun allows new ideas to be generated and improvements implemented.
  4. Evaluate the ideas using a set of pre-defined criteria – impact, strategic fit, value, cost, risk, timeframe etc. In evaluating ideas an initial feasibility should include a preliminary market, technical and risk assessment to determine the viability of the opportunity. It should also include an intellectual property search to determine whether someone else has already patented the idea, and to confirm that you have the freedom to operate.
  5. Implement the ideas to solve a problem, capitalise on an opportunity or transform your organisation. One of the most difficult steps is the implementation phase. Implementation requires the development of a project plan and then the execution of the plan through action. A typical implementation process may involve:
    • clarifying the objective,
    • developing the plan,
    • identifying key processes and tasks,
    • prioritizing activities,
    • resourcing and budgeting,
    • funding,
    • assigning responsibility, and then
    • doing it!

An ideas factory will require top-down management support, in addition to committed and disciplined champions who can drive the processes and methodology. Collaboration will also be an important element in the ideas factory. Champions can also make a significant contribution to the implementation stage.

Dr John Kapeleris

 

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In a previous blog I introduced Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats technique. The simple approach that encourages parallel thinking within a group or team environment has been useful in solving complex problems but can also increase productivity in meetings where decisions need to be made. Unfortunately, the tool is not used widely because many people don’t feel comfortable in using the technique (could be due to a number of reasons) or they don’t value the tool’s ability to deliver enhanced outcomes.

Having used the tool for over two decades I have seen the power of parallel thinking in a meeting environment. Unfortunately, I have also seen the tool challenged by a number of senior managers who don’t support the use of the tool because they don’t believe in it. The key to experiencing the power of the tool is to start using it and developing a deeper understanding of the power of the Six Thinking Hats. The best approach for applying the tool is to firstly understand the sequence of the coloured hats to use.

When I used the Six Thinking Hats in a workshop to work on the global problem of “Declining supply of petroleum fossil fuels” I used the following sequence of coloured hats and associated questions:

When considering a specific problem or topic it is best to start with the WHITE hat as this allows all the background information to be presented and documented. Once the problem or topic is fully defined then the RED hat is used to ask participants how they feel about the problem or situation. Participants’ feelings are documented. The general tendency for a proportion of people in a meeting, at this stage, is to present the negative aspects of the problem or situation, however in this process I like to encourage the use of the YELLOW hat to capture the positive aspects of the problem or situation from all participants. Sometimes we can identify the positive elements of a problem or issue. This step is then followed with the BLACK hat when everyone considers the negative aspects of the problem or situation. The BLACK hat is then followed by the GREEN hat where everyone is encouraged to use creative thinking to overcome the negative issues but also develop new alternatives to solving the problems or resolving the situation. I then encourage the use of the RED hat again to gauge the feelings of participants after considering the problem or issue. Generally, most participants who were previously concerned about the problem or situation now feel more positive after having gone through the process of using the different hats. Finally, it is always appropriate to use the BLUE hat as this allows participants to develop conclusions or to evaluate and summarise the solutions to move forward on the issue or problem. The BLUE hat also provides process control to ensure the right technique or approach was used by participants. If a solution or resolution was not identified then another approach or process would be suggested as more appropriate in solving the problem.

An example using the six thinking hats to solve the problem “Declining supply of petroleum fossil fuels” can be found below (summary extract of the workshop).

Dr John Kapeleris

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The Scale of the Universe

March 22nd, 2012 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Knowledge - (1 Comments)

I came across the following application which is innovative and entertaining. The enormity of the universe is phenomenal. Life is fantastic!

Click on the image below and press the start button.

Regards,

Dr John Kapeleris

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“Dealing with complexity is an inefficient and unnecessary waste of time, attention and mental energy. There is never any justification for things being complex when they could be simple”. Edward de Bono.

In today’s complex world many people are trying to simplify their lives but sometimes it becomes very difficult as we have built layer upon layer of interdependent complexity. Edward de Bono, creator of the Six Thinking Hats, stated at a recent seminar that simplicity is more innovative than complexity.

We are living in a world that has become more complex and we need to somehow make it simpler to allow us to focus on the more important aspects of business and personal life. The only way we will do this is through innovation. Edward de Bono in his book “Simplicity” outlines Ten Principles of Simplicity, summarised below:

  1. Assign a high value to simplicity. To get simplicity you have to want to get it. To want to get simplicity you have to put a high value on it.
  2. Continuously pursue simplicity. People quite like simplicity if it does not cost anything but are usually unwilling to invest resources in making something more simple.
  3. You need to understand simplicity. If you do not seek to understand a situation or process, your efforts will be ‘simplistic’ rather than simple. Simplicity before understanding is worthless.
  4. Design alternatives and possibilities. It is not a matter of designing the ‘one right way’. It is more a matter of designing alternatives and possibilities, and then selecting one of them.
  5. Challenge and discard existing elements. Everything needs to justify its continued existence. If you wish to retain something for the sake of tradition let that be a conscious decision.
  6. Be prepared to start over again. In the search for simplicity, modify if you can or start afresh if you cannot.
  7. Work through concepts. Concepts are the human mind’s way of simplifying the world around. If you do not use concepts, then you are working with detail.
  8. Break down problems into smaller units. The organisation of a smaller unit is obviously simpler than the organisation of a large unit. The smaller units are themselves organised to serve the larger purpose.
  9. Trade off other dimensions for simplicity. A system that seeks to be totally comprehensive may be very complex. You may need to trade-off that comprehensiveness for simplicity.
  10. Know for whose sake the simplicity is being designed. A shift of complexity may mean that a system is made easier for the customer but much more complicated for the operator.

What are you doing to make things simpler in your business and work life, or are you happy working in a complex world?

Dr John Kapeleris

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The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” – Jean Piaget

A few years ago I was invited to speak at a local primary school about future careers and new technologies. The school gave me a tour of some of the classrooms and I noticed  that Year 1 and 2 classes had Edward De Bono’s Six Thinkings Hats on a large poster on the wall. I was surprised and delighted that the school was teaching the Six Thinking Hats process to primary school children. However I quickly discovered that beyond Year 2 the Six Thinking Hats posters had disappeared from the later year classes.

I am a great advocate and believer that creative thinking as well as critical thinking and other types of thinking should be taught in our schools at an early age. However, we continue to develop new standardised curricula the same way we always have done but expect new outcomes. There must be a better way. I believe we should continue to teach creative thinking in our schools (primary and secondary) in an attempt to develop students with both the lateral and rational thinking styles.

I found the following video on “Changing Education Paradigms” very challenging and informative.

What are your thoughts on our education system?

Dr John Kapeleris

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Implementing Ideas the 3M Way

May 30th, 2011 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Ideas - (2 Comments)

New ideas, the basis of innovation, depend upon tapping the tacit knowledge of employees and making this knowledge available to others within the organisation. Once the knowledge is shared and recorded within the organization (codified knowledge) it becomes a component of the corporate memory of the organization. What the organisation then does with the new ideas presented by employees will have the potential to add value to the organization. Although many organisations capture and record ideas they fail to develop these ideas further or fall short of converting these ideas into new products or services, new processes or new organisational systems.

The global company 3M, known for its unique innovative practices, encourages employees to spend 15% of their time to work on their own ‘pet’ projects. These pet projects allow employees to investigate and test their ideas, and subsequently develop these ideas into concepts or applications. Known as the ’15 percent rule’, 3M use this approach to stimulate unplanned experimentation that may turn into successful, but unexpected innovations and new opportunities for the compsny. Had it not been for the existence of the 15 percent rule Art Fry and Spence Silver may have not had the opportunity and encouragement to develop the 3M Post-it® notes.

In the spirit of 3M, organisations that generate and capture a large number of ideas through their employees could hold internal ‘idea auctions’. Idea auctions are essentially forums where employees present and showcase their own ideas to an audience of interested parties who might be keen on taking on the idea and working with it, either individually or in groups. The process allows employees who come up with the ideas to ‘sell’ their ideas to anyone within the company, especially when their immediate supervisor or team members refuse to back the employee. Furthermore, some people are good at generating ideas while others prefer the implementation phase.  Using a group approach to reviewing ideas will also quickly provide important feedback from an ‘internal customer’ perspective.

A key success factor to successful implementation and exploitation of ideas within an organization is the availability of funding to support projects based on new ideas. Establishing a central organizational fund would relieve departments and business units from the responsibility to risk their existing operational budgets on new ideas. Such a fund would remove any financial obstacle to pursue ideas as the funding comes from a non-departmental budget. Subsequently the investment criteria for this fund would be different to the normal investment or product development criteria as the risk threshold associated with the investigation and development of new ideas would be elevated. 3M for example have provided up to US$50,000 in the form of ‘Genesis Grants’ which are internal venture capital funding for developing prototypes and market testing of new ideas and opportunities.

Generally, financial managers in many organizations would find it difficult to fathom the establishment of an internal investment fund to be used solely for the investigation and evaluation of new ideas.  Their first request would be for someone to justify the return on investment for such a fund, however, it is generally accepted that playing with the notion of exploiting new ideas is a risky business. The core management philosophy of 3M established in the company’s infancy by its then General Manager William McKnight has overcome any challenge to justify a return on investment. William McKnight developed the following founding principles at 3M back in 1914 which continue to influence the culture of 3M today: 

  1. Listen to anyone with an original idea, no matter how absurd it might sound at first.
  2. Encourage; don’t nitpick. Let people run with an idea.
  3. Hire good people and leave them alone.
  4. If you put fences around people you get sheep. Give people the room they need.
  5. Encourage experimental doodling.
  6. Give it a try – and quick!

McKnight’s approach was to encourage individual initiative that would produce the ‘raw material’ for new innovations. He also understood that along the way mistakes would be made, especially when giving employees the freedom and encouragement to act on their own initiative, however the organization as a whole would be continually learning.

A culture conducive to the generation, evaluation and exploitation of ideas is therefore a key success factor to driving innovation. Take a look at 3M today with over US$27 billion in revenue and a large number of innovative products servicing a wide range of industry sectors. For further information refer to the 3M website.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Creativity is the ability or aptitude by which individuals or groups generate or conceive new ideas, or adapt existing concepts into new principles. Many ideas have led to successful businesses and innovations. For example, these ideas may be a new solution to a problem, a new business model, a new method or a new product concept. By stimulating the creative process within individuals, new ideas and concepts can be generated that can lead to the achievement of new innovations.

The creative process was first described by Graham Wallas back in 1926. He proposed a systematic model that usually follows a sequence of phases: preparation; incubation; illumination; and implementation. However, we find today that many people do not have the interest or inclination to develop their creative thinking capacity. They feel more comfortable with their analytical or logical thinking.

Creative thinking (or divergent thinking) provides the means to generate new ideas and the identification of new opportunities. However, once ideas are generated they must be captured, screened, evaluated and finally implemented, which takes significant effort. This is reflected in the statement made by Thomas Edison that, “Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”

So what can we do to develop our creative abilities that will contribute to competitive advantage for ourselves and our organisation? Following I have outlined ten ways to enhance and stimulate your creativity:

  1. Connect with people. Creativity is about people therefore you need to expand your networks through LinkedIn, facebook and twitter and develop creative communities and social networks that can provide creative inspiration. You could also seek a mentor or join a mastermind group with like-minded individuals. A great way of engaging people in the workplace to become more creative is to establish a creativity club.
  2. Take control of your workspace. Create an environment that is conducive to creative thinking e.g. this could involve setting up a den with a large mahogany desk, a library and a soft leather chair, or it could be a quiet and relaxing retreat to read and think quietly without interruptions
  3. Learn new creativity tools and techniques. This can be done through self education or through courses and online resources. You can also attend seminars and workshops on creativity, and become familiar with a selection of creativity tools and techniques that you can begin to implement and use (e.g. brainstorming, mindmapping, Six Thinking Hats, Why-why-why, SCAMPER, random word, force field analysis, creative visualization, synectics, morphological analysis, imagination, intuition)
  4. Expand your mind through reading. Reading articles and publications on creativity and innovation will help you to better understand the topics and the power the knowledge can bring when applied to your personal and business life. You should also read references on  personal development and topics that may be unrelated to your own interests.
  5. Engage in fun and humour. Engaging in brain games and puzzles is one way of stimultaing your creative abilities, however, engaging in outdoor activities, such as bike riding and walking can also have a positive effect. You could also attend sporting events, comedy shows or other live performances. Watching your favorite DVD movies can also create an escape for creative imagination.
  6. Stimulate your artistic flair. Take up the arts through drawing, painting, music or drama. I don’t mean become the next music star or Leonardo da Vinci; just set aside some time to engage with the arts.
  7. Visit inspiring places. Museums and art galleries provide an excellent environment to stimulate creativity and learning. Visiting awe-inspiring locations of interest around the world, such as the Louvre, Tuscany, ancient Greek locations or the Great Pyramids can also stimulate creative thinking. A simple relaxing holiday location at a beach resort is also a great way to free your mind and think creatively.
  8. Understand and utilise the power of your subconscious. Take advantage of the alpha dynamic state and its positive influence on your thinking abilities, or the power of creative visualization to enhance your creative abilities.
  9. Think on paper. Escape from the current dominance of the digital environment by keeping a journal, an ideas notebook, or just grab a pen and paper and write down the problems you want to solve, or the opportunities you want to develop. You can also apply creative thinking techniques and creative problem solving processes on paper.
  10. Convert ideas into action. One of the most rewarding activities is to take the ideas you have captured, develop them further and implement them to achieve successful outcomes.

You don’t need to try all ten suggestions above. The important thing is to make a commitment to enhancing your creative thinking abilities by taking action and trying a few of the suggestions. Dan Pink author of a Whole New Mind, stated, “Left brain thinking gets you the job, right brain thinking gets you the promotion“.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Today’s business environment requires business owners, managers and leaders to deliver more with less time and resources. The impact of the recent global economic changes has further influenced the business environment resulting in diminished resources – fewer people, smaller budgets and significantly less time available to complete tasks and achieve the desired results and outcomes.

One solution to this problem is the power of Speed Thinking. Speed Thinking developed by Dr Ken Hudson and described in detail in his book Speed Thinking: How to Thrive in a Time-poor World is a process that consciously and deliberately accelerates the pace at which an individual or group thinks, creates, solves and acts.

The concept for Speed Thinking emerged when Dr Ken Hudson observed that when managers were challenged by limiting their available time they often produced the desired results and subsequently felt more energised and satisfied. By giving people less time this can unlock their creative abilities to achieve more and still achieve a high quality outcome. It also removes the opportunity for people to over-analyze the situation or task and avoid “paralysis through analysis”.

The concept of Speed Thinking is aligned with the thoughts of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking which challenges the long-held belief that doing something quickly compromises quality. By relying on your creative abilities and intuition you can improve the efficiency of your thinking, avoid procrastination and get more things done quickly by creating more time for yourself.

Dr Ken Hudson outlines a number of ways to use Speed Thinking in his book, however, one of the processes that he describes is SpeedLinks which involves the following steps:

  1. Using the template SpeedLinks Paper Version write down the issue or challenge you wish to resolve.
  2. Create nine initial thoughts or ideas in the inner nine bubbles in two minutes or less (the Start step). The objective is to write down your ideas as fast as you can without filtering or review.
  3. Select a few of the thoughts or ideas that seem the most promising or just intuitively feel interesting (the Evaluate step).
  4. Now try to develop nine ways to make your selected ideas even stronger by expanding and building the ideas into concepts. The objective of this step is to develop or build the ideas as fast as you can (the Build step).
  5. The last step is to take each of the selected and developed concepts and write nine ways to bring these to life (the Action step). For example, you may want to talk to a customer, develop a rapid prototype for demonstration, deliver a presentation to  agroup, develop a short business plan, or write a  list of tasks or activities. Actions should be specific and tangible.

In a very small amount of time you will have developed a range of possibilities, built new concepts and developed action plans ready for implementation.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Four Key Skills for Success

April 13th, 2011 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Success - (0 Comments)

It doesn’t matter whether you have completed a university degree, other higher education courses or just completed some level of schooling, when starting work in an organisation or in your own business, the four fundamental key skills for success in your personal or business life, that emerge from numerous studies, are:

  1. Communication. The ability to communicate effectively, through both written and oral skills, is always at the top of the list for achieving success. Business transactions mainly involve the interaction between people, therefore, building relationships with people requires effective communication and interpersonal skills. Persuasive communication skills are also needed to influence other people, whether in your own organisation or in another organisation.
  2. Negotiation. Negotiating terms and deals is important in business and personal life, whether you are engaged in a licensing deal, a distribution agreement, a manufacturing contract, sales terms, or simply purchasing a new motor vehicle or house. A good understanding of the process of negotiation and the different strategies available will assist you in your business and personal life.
  3. Creativity. Being able to tap into your creative abilities will allow you to generate new ideas for new business opportunities. Creativity is also needed to solve complex problems through identifying and sourcing innovative solutions or looking at problems from a different perspective. Furthermore, the ability to identify new business opportunities that other people have overlooked requires the right mindset, including, an open mind that is able to make the appropriate connections in the business environment or marketplace.
  4. Marketing/selling. The ability to market yourself and your organisation increases your exposure in the marketplace.  Although many people don’t consider, or want to consider themselves as salespeople, everyone is a salesperson and therefore needs to understand and utilise the power of selling. For example, it is important to be able to sell your ideas and products to other people but also to sell your capability and skills, particularly in service based industries or when you are applying for a job.

I would also add a fifth skill, which is relevant in today’s digital world; the ability to understand and utilise the power of the Internet, particularly Google, YouTube and social media applications such as LinkedIn, facebook and twitter. Through Google and the Internet you can find virtually any information, knowledge and online learning resources for continuing self-education and personal development. The Internet provides a medium to source ideas and new opportunities that can be applied to different business environments. The Internet is also a network of fluid connections allowing you to connect to other people who may have the knowledge, capability or related interests, to assist you with your business, or who may become your future clients.

Start developing these skills today, that have the potential to make a difference to your future!

Dr John Kapeleris

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Creative Hothouses Part 2

March 7th, 2011 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Creativity - (6 Comments)

A colleague asked me to provide further information on history’s “Creative Hothouses”, such as ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence, the creative communities of the Parisian cafes and salons (early 1900s) and the German Bauhaus (1919-1933). Following is a summary of history’s creative hothouses.

Ancient Athens

The Athenians during the Golden Age of Greece (500 – 300 BC), created forms of history, mathematics, democracy, political science, philosophy, drama, architecture and sculpture, that continue to influence our world today. The hothouse of Athens was able to fuse a number of cultural domains into distinctive forms such as buildings, literature and politics. Thousands of years later the achievements of Athens played a crucial role in inspiring the Renaissance.

European Renaissance

The Renaissance Period (1300 to 1600), particularly in Florence, was characterised as the age of exploration with an emergence of new knowledge that influenced art and science. The knowledge from the ancient Greco-Roman period, that had lay dormant for a millennium, suddenly gained a renewed interest that further influenced the explosion of art and science. Advances in a number of industries occurred, including, travel, metallurgy, optics, ballistics, construction and agriculture. An exponential growth of wealth and knowledge also drove the emergence of the nation-state, each with its increased military power. The legacy created by the Renaissance Period was in the form of art. Life-like oil paintings and sculptures, the use of perspective, and the design of visually inspiring architecture was developed during the Renaissance.

The Parisian Cafes and Salons

During the early twentieth century, following the Paris World Fair in 1900, an industrial boom occurred in Europe and the United States, bringing new technological developments such as the horseless carriage, the wireless radio, widespread use of the telephone, and the proliferation of electric light bulbs. It was also the time when Albert Einstein published his first paper on the Theory of Relativity. During the early 1900s the Parisian cafes were social hubs fuelled by coffee, wine, and creative passion, where people would meet in an environment conducive to sharing mutually stimulating ideas and conversations. Gertrude Stein’s apartment also became one of the significant hothouses in Paris in the 1920s, with gatherings every Saturday night (salons) and visits throughout the week. Stein collected paintings of notable artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Braque before they became famous. The apartment became a salon of creativity where artists, poets and writers (Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Ernest Hemingway and Thornton Wilder to name a few) came together to share their experiences and fuel creative inspiration through the process of osmosis.

German Bauhaus

The German Bauhaus (1919-1933) under the leadership of Walter Gropius provided a workshop experience for architecture, sculpture, art and design. It also became the creative hub that bridged art and business where new creations could be transformed into products for the market. It brought together the cultural and physical landscapes to develop and stimulate students through transfering the skills of the masters. Many students then became masters teaching their learnings and experiences to future students. In 1934 when the Nazis declared all modern art to be ‘un-German”, the Bauhaus moved to Chicago where it became the New Bauhaus and later the Institute of Design.

Common Characteristics

The hothouses in history had a number of characteristics that were common, particularly the ability to accomplish the following (extracted from “The Hothouse Effect”):

  1. Sustain a high level of innovative creativity for a significant period of time
  2. Draw on the knowledge and innovation of the broader cultural community to which it belonged
  3. Spawn geniuses whose achievements climax the work of many other practitioners at all levels of achievements
  4. Establish a new paradigm, that is, a new way of doing things that informs its creative products and establishes new principles, procedures and standards.
  5. Achieve wide recognition and establish a lasting legacy to which future generations continually return to emulate.

It may also be interesting to study some of the more modern creative hothouses, such as Silicon Valley, and learn how intellectual exchanges led, in this example, to the development of the “dot.com boom”.

You may also know of other creative hothouses, local regional or national, that you would like to share.

Dr John Kapeleris

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