It’s your job to fill your company’s pipeline with innovative product ideas.
Maybe it came easy at first; but lately, you’re starting to feel stale. Or worse yet, you and your team have no problem coming up with fresh ideas, but coming up with a groundbreaking one is rare and unpredictable.
As you know, the reason your innovation group exists is to generate new value (or to put it more frankly, new revenue streams) for your company. You accomplish this when one of the innovation opportunities you’ve uncovered "creates and grows wealth."
To drastically improve the odds of unearthing the next value-creating innovation, you should place more and better bets. These bets come in the form of ideas.
So, stop populating your pipeline with mediocre ideas. They’re not only hurting your company’s future but also working against your efforts to get your company to prioritize innovation.
Instead, let’s make it a priority to come up with better ideas.
This raises the question: What is a better idea?
A better idea is an idea that satisfies more of the “good idea” criteria.
A good idea is not just a thought. Rather, it is a potential solution to a problem.
A good idea satisfies your business objectives.
A good idea is desirable to your customer, feasible to produce, and viable for your business.
We won’t know the quality of an idea until we evaluate how it meets these criteria. But today’s post is about coming up with ideas, not evaluating them. We’ll dive into idea evaluation another time.
So, you’re eager to come up with better ideas. Let’s explore five methods you can act on today:
1. Experience the problem
For us, the greatest form of inspiration comes from observing, understanding, and experiencing the problem we are setting out to solve.
Ideas flow out easily and quickly once we truly understand the problem at hand.
Once you’ve immersed yourself in a problem, you can see and understand it much more clearly.
After gaining a deep understanding, you should redefine the problem statement and articulate it to your team, backed by the context of your learnings.
2. Collaborate with the right people
Ideating in a silo will hinder the quality of your ideas. Sure, it’s good to start solo, wrapping your head around the problem and documenting the initial flood of ideas.
But after that, surround yourself with a group of people—not just any people, but the people with perspectives that are meaningful to the problem.
Collaboration is imperative for innovation!
3. Host a more effective ideation session
Most brainstorming or ideation sessions are unproductive, wasting your team’s precious time and energy.
The first problem we see is that in most ideation sessions half the time is spent educating the team on what’s being asked of them.
Make the most of your time together by priming your team beforehand on the problem and goals you’ll be addressing in the ideation session. That’ll give them time to stew in the ask, marinate in the problem, and come ready to share out ideas.
The second problem is that ideation sessions get off track (or were never on track). Ideation groups tend to go down a rabbit hole or off in a bunch of random directions that have nothing to do with the problem they’re setting out to solve.
Keep your ideation session productive by displaying a clear problem statement for everyone to see.
As soon as the conversation starts veering off track (as it almost always does), come back to the problem statement and remind the group of the objective.
4. Focus first on quantity
One of the most fruitful ways to come up with better ideas is to come up with more of them.
Knowing that we can pare down and select only the best ideas later, strive upfront to generate a large number of ideas.
When you focus on quantity, a few powerful things happen:
You take the pressure off each individual idea, allowing people to be more relaxed and creative
You push past the obvious and mundane ideas into the realm of novel ideas
You build momentum, leading to even more ideas
5. Separate generation from evaluation
It can be really tempting to judge your ideas as you’re coming up with them, ESPECIALLY if you’re hell-bent on coming up with better ideas.
When you judge your ideas as you create them, you stifle creativity, limiting the uniqueness of the ideas you conjure up.
Instead, separate generation from evaluation. In other words, hold your ideation session, take a break for a day or so, and then hold an evaluation session.
Generation and evaluation require two distinctly different mindsets. To maximize the output of each, keep them separate.
There you have it: five ways you can start generating better ideas today.
Better ideas mean better odds of value creation. If you can predictably and consistently create value for your company, you will give your stakeholders the proof they need to invest further in you and your team, bringing you closer to reaching your innovation potential.