the unseen key

July 5, 2017

What is the difference between ideation and innovation? Why is ideation an integral part of a company’s business strategy?

Ideation is a process. Innovation is an outcome. Ideation is the process that helps you get ideas. Innovation is a new idea implemented and benefits all the stakeholders. In my view, a strategy is a focused idea that helps us achieve a desired objective. It is making the right choice— what to do and what not to do—that makes a strategy powerful. In order to create a strong ideation strategy, companies must work towards creating a strong creative climate. That will lead to more new and productive ideas.

 Why do you compare unlocking of ideas to the task of opening a chest of treasure?

I compare unlocking of ideas to opening a treasure chest because that is what it really is. There is so much treasure out there but we do not know how to access our wealth of ideas.

What are the different keys and how can they be used effectively?

There are seven keys:

01 The Master Key to define what you want ideas for

02 The Brains Key to choose the right people to help you get a range of ideas

03 The Design Key to create a robust process to make it all work

04 The Wizard Key to use a bouquet of tools and techniques to generate a diverse set of ideas

05 The Smart Key to sort and select ideas that can give us the best results

06 The Moment of Truth Key to commit money, resources, and time

07 The Action Key to make things happen; executing the new ideas to make a difference.

What are the common mistakes companies make while ideating?

While ideating, companies can make several mistakes such as being impatient, getting judgmental or scared of new ideas and thereby playing safe. Another common mistake is coming up with ideas and immediately discussing the pros and cons. Not defining the problem sharply enough, not gunning for a large number of ideas, not stretching enough, not spending enough quality time, and spending more time discussing the problem than looking for solutions—are some of the other mistakes.

How should companies ensure they have the right set people or the ‘ideas’ people?

Companies already have the right people, many of them brilliant. All they have to do is to give them the freedom to think differently, provide a nurturing and safe climate, and teach them a variety of tools and techniques that will help them look at different ways of generating ideas. Be tolerant of ambiguity. Our problem is that as soon as we hear that the pregnancy test is +ve, we want to know whether it is a boy or girl. Our impatience and judgment are our biggest enemies.

“The way an organisation treats new ideas defines the creative climate of that organisation.” Can you elaborate on this thought?

What does the boss do when he hears a new idea? Something he has never thought of or heard of? Is he patient and willing to explore further, or is he quick to dismiss the idea just because it is new and makes him feel uncomfortable? Is it a tolerant and nurturing culture or a gun-toting, murderous, killing culture?

What are the reasons for censorship of ideas within organizations?

Most of us are not trained to look at new ideas. We simply emulate what we have seen from childhood—at home, school, college, and then at work. It is binary— right or wrong, nothing in between. We cannot handle ambiguity and wait till an idea emerges. Every ‘big idea’ was born small. They became big because of nourishment, encouragement, and investment of time, money, and  resources. No baby is born weighing 50 kg, all ready to walk, dance, and sing. It is the same with ideas.

Can you elucidate the concept of divergent and convergent thinking?

Imagine a game of treasure hunt for kids. They go around exploring and finally find something. Divergence is exploration. Convergent is when you have located the spot and start digging to get the treasure out and shape it.

What is the ‘Wow’ formula and how can businesses effectively use it to impact customers?

‘Wow’ happens when you far exceed expectations. This is not unknown to industry/businesses. They are not imaginative enough to find ways to wow customers. Smaller businesses may have more flexibility to do that. How do you make surprising customers a part of your company culture? That is not easy but not impossible.

Can you tell us about your creative blockbuster toolkit?

It is simply a collection of a few creative techniques that will help you break your mental block. The simplest one is ‘phone a friend’. When you are stuck, call anyone from your contact list on your phone and ask, “If you are in my position what would you do?” Do not argue with them, simply listen to them. Call ten friends—you are likely to get at least 5-6 new ways to deal with your situation. Some of the ideas might be completely new that have never occurred to you.

Social media is reshaping marketing—what part does it play in the ideation process?

Ideation takes place 24×7. It need not be an elaborate process but everyone is generating ideas to do something or the other. When I feel stuck, I post the query/challenge on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Quora. Within ten, minutes I have so many new options.


As told to Titash Roy Choudhury