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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We are faced with many decisions on a daily basis both in our work and personal lives, for example:

  • Do we pursue a new business, product or market opportunity?
  • Do we proceed with establishing a new collaborative partnership?
  • Do we accept an invitation to attend a network meeting?
  • Do we take the family on another vacation even though the budget is tight?

Decision making is a mental function that involves selecting a course of action among alternative options and involves making a final choice. Decision making is critical to managing and leading individuals, teams and organizations. Following is a model that outlines where decision making and choice making occur in a problem solving context. 

The model begins with the realisation that an undesirable state  (a problem) exists and that a solution needs to be identified and implemented. The decision making stages involve firstly the diagnosis of a problem, followed by the generation of alternative solutions and finally choosing an appropriate solution. 

Decision making on a daily basis may involve the following approaches:

  • Choosing the first option that comes to mind (based on past experience) which is perceived to be likely to achieve the desired outcome
  • Listing the advantages and disadvantages of a situation, then making a decision
  • Making a list of available options and then choosing the most appropriate option to acheive the desired outcome
  • Decision making based on intuition
  • Flipping a coin to make a decision

When faced with difficult decisions it is best to utilise a systematic approach to achieve the best outcomes. An effective decision making approach is outlined below:

  1. Outline the goal and desired outcome you wish to achieve.
  2. Gather the available data and information to provide background knowledge on the situation.
  3. Brainstorm to develop a number of alternative solutions.
  4. Evaluate each alternative by determining the advantages and disadvantages for each option, and the likely impact it will create.
  5. Make the decision by choosing the most optimal solution.
  6. Implement the solution immediately by taking action.
  7. Evaluate the outcome, and learn from and reflect on the decision making.

Dr John Kapeleris

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The year 2011 is technically the start of a new decade. Therefore, one of the questions on my mind has been, “What will be the focus or trend for the new decade?” I spent some time doing some research online to identify the new trends and found that three things will definitely occur in the new decade:

1. There will be more change in the world than ever before
2. There will be more competition
3. There will be more opportunities available.

I also identified that the emerging theme or trend, particularly in the complex digital age, will be “thinking”. The use of computers and the escalation of digital handheld devices has removed the human element from interactions and transactions. Technology in the last decade has limited our ability to take time out to spend on thinking – thinking about our current situation, thinking about our goals, and thinking about the future. Instead we spend significant amounts of time watching shows in front of flat-screen TVs, playing games or surfing the internet on computers, and tapping away on handheld devices.

Many decades ago Thomas Edison stated, “There are few people who think, a few people who think they think, and then there are the great majority, who would rather die than think“. Interestingly, this quote is still relevant today. We either avoid making the effort to think, or we have essentially allowed technology and computers to do our thinking for us. Humans, in general, have also become more complacent by focusing on the present rather than thinking about the future. Thinking provides the ability to make better decisions which translate into better actions, and ultimately better results.

One of the characteristics of successful and insightful people is that they are future-oriented. They set aside the time to think about changes and trends that will impact on the future. They use these trends and factors to identify new opportunities providing first-mover advantage. Future-oriented people believe they can create their own future and influence their destiny by taking advantage of these opportunities.

Thinking can also change the way we perceive a problem. We can think of a problem as an undesirable situation that needs to be rectified. We can also take this undesirable situation or problem and view it as a challenge that can stimulate motivation for us to take action. Ultimately, we can perceive a problem as an opportunity and take advantage of what it can offer.

John C. Maxwell in his book “Thinking for a Change” describes the eleven different styles of thinking that can change your life:

  1. Acquire the wisdom of big-picture thinking – holistic thinking that extends beyond your domain
  2. Unleash the potential of focused thinking – concentrated thinking to clarify the issues
  3. Discover the joy of creative thinking – thinking laterally outside the box to identify breakthrough opportunities
  4. Recognize the importance of realistic thinking – asking whether your thinking has a solid foundation
  5. Release the power of strategic thinking – thinking about the future and the potential opportunities it brings
  6. Feel the energy of possibility thinking – possibility thinking can help you find solutions to complex problems
  7. Embrace the lessons of reflective thinking – thinking about the past or your current situation to better understand and learn from your experiences
  8. Question the acceptance of popular thinking – understand the current trends of common thinking in society
  9. Encourage the participation of shared thinking – engaging others to expand and sharpen your thinking
  10. Experience the satisfaction of unselfish thinking – considering the needs of others in your thinking
  11. Enjoy the return of bottom-line thinking – staying focused on results and outcomes from your thinking

To engage in the thinking process, set aside some quiet time in the right environment with a clear and relaxed mind, together with pen and paper, using the following step process:

  1. Determine the purpose of your thinking – What is the objective that you are trying to achieve?
  2. Focus on the topic, issue or opportunity – Take the time to focus so that you can achieve clarity.
  3. Explore the possibilities using some of the thinking styles above – Identify the different alternatives available by using different thinking styles.
  4. Synthesize your thoughts and ideas – Combine, adapt, modify, substitute, eliminate or reverse your thoughts and ideas to create new opportunities.
  5. Record your thoughts and ideas on paper – Think on paper! Get back to basics by using a pen and pad or journal to write down your thoughts and ideas, also allowing you to get things out of your head.
  6. Act on the outputs and opportunities resulting from your thinking – Take action and implement your ideas.

If you focus on thinking about the future an unlimited number of possibilities and opportunities become available that can create a new direction and a more desirable life.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Ideation or idea generation is a key driver of the innovation process. So how do we find our best ideas? Many of us generate our best ideas during the morning shower, or while we are listening to music or driving. Sometimes we come up with ideas when we are actively trying to solve problems or when we wake up in the morning. The greatest impediment to extracting value from these ideas is firstly our ability to actively capture these great ideas before the hard work begins to evaluate, harvest and implement these ideas.

Converting ideas into successful outcomes or benefits, i.e. innovations, requires a disciplined approach, although creativity forms the foundation of the process.  A typical idea management process may involve the following steps:

Generating Ideas

Dr Linus Pauling, the dual Nobel Prize Laureate stated “The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas”. The more ideas you produce the greater the chance of finding a winning idea. Idea generation was popularized by Alex Osborne in his 1953 book “Applied Imagination” where he described the concept of “Brainstorming”. Brainstorming is now widely used as a tool to generate a large number of ideas in a group setting. Furthermore, Tony Buzan’s Mindmapping® technique has also provided the means for individual brainstorming. Individuals or groups have the capacity to come up with ideas when they are in a conducive state or environment, such as relaxing in a quiet and comfortable place or while taking a shower. Relaxation allows the subconscious mind to continue to process information and make connections.

Capturing Ideas

Where do you look for ideas? You don’t need to go far. Ideas already exist within individuals working in an organization or they can be easily sourced from the external environment, including the market, customers, competitors and the Internet. We can improve the process of capturing ideas by:

  • Actively looking for ideas around us through observation and listening e.g. talking to people, newspapers, the environment
  • Building idea sources such as reference books, the Internet, thought leaders
  • Recording and banking ideas in journals, notebooks, electronic databases or mobile phone apps

Discovery through serendipity results in a random coincidence or accident that triggers an idea or concept. An attentive mind is important in recognizing and capturing these random ideas. Alternatively, synchronicity or focused awareness is more powerful since the individual is actively seeking an idea or a solution to a problem.

Constructing and Harvesting Ideas

When ideas are generated and captured they are usually in a raw form and require further constructing or processing into a concept or application. For this to occur a number of creative thinking tools can be used including brainstorming, morphological analysis, scenario building, rearranging, cross-linking or randomizing. The final step involves harvesting the developed ideas that will either, satisfy an existing market need, solve a known problem or provide a new opportunity for further development. At this stage some people will include an incubation step to sleep on the ideas before the evaluation stage.

Evaluating and Protecting Ideas

The previous steps in the idea management process all involve some element of creative input, while, the evaluation stage involves traditional analysis of the ideas using a number of predefined criteria relevant to the individual or the organization. Although, intuition may also play a role.  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. This step is followed by determining the value of the idea to the organization and the costs associated with the implementation phase. Paralysis by analysis should be avoided if the idea is to progress to implementation.

Implementing Ideas

One of the most difficult steps is the implementation phase. To develop great ideas and not to action them is the same as not having any ideas at all. Implementation requires planning, hard work and discipline to achieve successful outcomes. Many people underestimate the effort involved in converting their ideas into successful products, services or processes. 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!

Developing a compelling business case or business model with a clear path to market is a key factor of success.

Measuring Outcomes and Results

Progress can be monitored using appropriate measures to determine the effectiveness of the idea. Measures include value currencies such as revenue, cost savings, efficiency gains, social benefits and environmental benefits. Remember, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

Your next idea could be the breakthrough innovation, new solution, new product, new service or organisational system that could add value to your organisation or to society.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Have you ever considered at what time are you the most creative or when is your mind highly productive? For some people it is when they  just wake up in the morning or when they are about to go to sleep. Others find that they are most creative in the shower or when relaxing in the bath. I have also found that people are creative when they are driving along the highway or going for a relaxing walk. Interestingly, not many people actually state that they are most creative when at work, which could be the reason why our abilities to solve problems and create new opportunities are usually stifled by our work environments.

The key to achieving a highly creative and productive mind is to move into a relaxed state of being, that is, when your mind enters the alpha state. The alpha state occurs when your brainwaves run at about 8 to 12 cycles or hertz. It is defined as the borderline between conscious and subconscious activity – the period when we are just about to fall asleep or when we slowly and naturally wake up.

The normal conscious state of 13 to 25 hertz is called the beta state. The beta state is when we are awake as we go about our daily lives. Just below the alpha level, is the theta state which is even slower than alpha at 3.5 to 7 hertz, and an even deeper sense of relaxation. Slower still is the state of sleep which is called the delta state at 0.5 to 3.5 hertz.

By inducing the alpha state and maintaining this state for long periods without falling asleep, we can become highly creative and productive. During this heightened state of awareness the mind is clear, receptive to information, and therefore able to rapidly make connections that result in new ideas and thoughts. The mind also becomes focussed and able to solve problems almost effortlessly.

A number of methods exist that allow you to enter and remain in the alpha state of mind. Following are two of the most common methods that I have used to induce the alpha state that allows you to begin to generate new ideas, solve problems and make new connections. The best time to induce the alpha state is either early in the morning after waking up or just before you go to sleep in the evening. However, you can induce the alpha state at anytime if you can find a quiet environment without any interruptions.

Relaxation Through Breathing (Dr Benson’s Relaxation Response)

  1. Sit in a comfortable chair with feet on the floor, close your eyes and relax your body
  2. Take a deep breath and mentally focus on a single item or stimulus
  3. Continue for 5-10 minutes breathing deeply
  4. Move into a meditative state letting go of your thoughts and clearing your mind
  5. New ideas, solutions and connections will emerge (record your thoughts immediately)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  1. Relax each part of your body from the top of your head to your toes, progressively relaxing each of your muscles
  2. With your eyes closed, count backwards from 21 to 1 breathing slowly
  3. Clear your mind and relax
  4. New thoughts will begin to emerge (record your thoughts immediately)

Try the two techniques above and see what emerges. By frequently practicing the lost art of inducing the alpha state we will strengthen our ability to use our heightened state of mind and begin to generate new ideas and productive thoughts.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Intuition

May 26th, 2010 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Creativity | Mind - (0 Comments)

Intuition is the ability to know or understand without conscious thought, observation or reason. It is associated with the right-brain functions of the mind, although it is commonly referred to as gut feeling. Intuition provides us with the ability to develop valid solutions to problems or make appropriate decisions beyond conscious understanding.

Intuition is a sensing function where we experience a flash of sudden insight. For example:

  • The hunch that you should investigate a new idea or opportunity
  • The feeling that you need to look over previous work or information
  • The sensing that you will meet someone you know at an upcoming function

The intuitive process can unexpectedly lead you to the right solution, a valid decision, a new discovery, a creative experience, or a new opportunity. Studies have shown that many senior executives have relied on intuition or “gut feeling” to make the right decision when their businesses have come to a defining moment in time. However, we generally do not want to admit that we use intuition to make some of our decisions and choices in life.

Philip Goldberg in his book “The Intuitive Edge” describes six types of intuition:

  1. Discovery
  2. Creativity
  3. Evaluation
  4. Operation
  5. Prediction
  6. Illumination

Intuition is central to many scientific discoveries and creative inspirations. Intuition can also be a spontaneous experience where a solution to a problem emerges in our minds without prior analysis or incubation.

It is difficult to develop our intuitive abilities, however, we can learn to become more aware of our intuition. For example, we can become more receptive to our feelings and thoughts, believe in our own abilities, and internally ” listen”  to subconscious messages.

To strengthen our intuition we can implement the following simple steps:

  1. Prepare by sourcing as much information as possible around the issue or problem you are trying to address.
  2. Incubate the information in your mind to allow your thoughts to create new connections – allow the creative process to occur.
  3. Trust your mind that it will come up with a solution or new discovery.
  4. Pursue unrelated activities or try to relax your mind, avoiding tension.
  5. Recognize intuition and the internal messages created.
  6. Act on the intuitive ideas immediately when you feel complete certainty.

Make it a great life!

Dr John Kapeleris

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