There are no bad ideas: 7 steps to ideation


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How to generate, sustain, promote and maintain ideas and how to take your idea generation process into overdrive!

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There are no bad ideas: 7 steps to ideation

  1. 1. There are no bad ideas: 7 steps to ideation are- no- bad- ideas- 7- steps- to- ideation/ April 9, 2013 “First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” ― Napoleon HillDo you have a process to generate new, exciting ideas and bring them to life?There are periods in our life when ideas come naturally but there are periodswhen it is much more difficult to generate ideas.You may take your notepad and pen and go deep in the thinkingprocess. But still you may have nothing.When you are at the initial stages of the creative process, do you believe that
  2. 2. there is no such thing as a bad idea?Can all ideas can be admitted into the mix or do you pre-select ideas based onyour thoughts and beliefs about them?Are there guidelines that you can use to generate and encourage novel ideas?In order for novel ideas to be discovered, they have to be acknowledged andallowed a chance.The following 7 steps may help with your idea process…1. There is no such thing as a bad idea “Ideas come from everything” ― Alfred HitchcockHave you had the experience of a resource that you previously overlookedcoming to the rescue in a project? Sometimes what you think is not importantbecomes the highest value tool.When you do not allow different elements into the mix, you may just belimiting your choices to only a few.You may need to retrain your thinking to look at ideas in a different light.There may be great value in allowing many ideas to incubate in your mind. Atthe very least, it gives you new choices to consider instead of doing the samething.Begin by believing that you can have great ideas and there is no suchthing as a bad idea. Be open to the idea that all seemingly bad ideas areones that may not be quite as relevant to the questions that you are asking inthe current moment.2. Understand that we are constantly selecting basedon our beliefs and experiencesWe think ideas are good or bad, worthy or unworthy, interesting or boring. Bypre-labeling an idea as good or bad and so on, we make sure that it is notbrought on the table.
  3. 3. When you pre-label an idea, you assume that it may have no value toyou.We are constantly selecting for or against new ideas based on the filters thatwe view the world through. For example, if your filter is one of the devil’sadvocate, you may not be interested in the merits of an idea. Instead you mayargue endlessly just to prove your point that it is not a great idea.In the book, The 10 faces of innovation, Thomas Kelley describes the ideageneration process in the innovation firm IDEO. In IDEO, the culture activelyencourages and promotes new ideas.The simple but effective method IDEO uses is personas. Personas aredifferent social masks that people can adopt while looking at an idea. Thereare several personas such as the anthropologist, the architect, the storytellerand the experimenter that can counter the devil’s advocate persona.These personas are used to allow ideas to come to light and have a chanceand not be nipped in the bud by the devil’s advocate. For example, thestoryteller persona can build a compelling narrative based on actual customerneeds and how a product can provide great value.When other personas give the idea a chance, it is much more likely thatit will see the light of day. Are you the playing devil’s advocate role whenyou generate new ideas? Having a supportive environment may be keyfor ideas to thrive.3. The ideas cafe “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”― George Bernard ShawIdeas come and collide with one another and can generate new ideas. In hisTED talk, Steven Johnson describes that historically coffee shops were greatidea generation machines and lead to the period known as The Enlightenment.
  4. 4. According to Johnson, in coffee houses, people got together from differentbackgrounds and there was the mix-up and sharing of various ideas.Ideas do not exist in a vacuum. They need to come together in different formsand ways. Instead of having a singular eureka moment, great ideas are morelike a network or a mesh that comes together.The area around Stanford University is a hotbed of innovation and ideasbecause of the close proximity of people who know and believe that they areinnovators. Ideas are coming together, combining and colliding to producesomething novel.And after you have absorbed and allowed ideas to collide with each other, youmay have to allow them to incubate in your mind for some great form to becreated.When we implement ideas for a new paradigm, we are not just drawing fromthe idea but from who we are and our experiences. More importantly, we arealso drawing from the various ideas that we have received over the years fromdifferent people and sources.If you feel like you require new ideas, go out. Go to the local coffee storesand the local art districts. Go on a nature hike with people from a hiking club.The idea is to mingle with people and perspectives that are differentfrom yours.4. Practical rationalizations and authority figuresSo many of us give up on what seems like a great idea because someauthority figure or the still silent voice in our heads dictates us to do so. Wetake input on our ideas much too soon and convince ourself that theidea will not work.In organizations, brainstorming may not be a great idea if the culture does notallow for ideas to be discussed freely. In the innovation giant IDEO, theculture promotes ideas to come forth and everyone is encouraged tocontribute.At IDEO, creative brainstorming involves beginning with a well-defined andhoned statement of the problem. Ideas are encouraged with the uppermanagement stepping back and allowing others to participate. The culturedoes not suppress good ideas. When the upper management steps back,
  5. 5. there is room for admission of new ideas.I have worked in places in the past where all that the higher managementwanted were people who could follow orders. While the general belief was thatthe company allowed new ideas, the culture did not support that belief.In addition to authority figures, you may have many outdated and counter-productive beliefs around ideas:Ideas are a dime a dozen…Ideas are cheap…All of these beliefs and assumptions prevent you from even coming up andsometimes disallowing ideas to take flight. Once the rationalization processkicks into high gear, we find evidence for why a particular idea is a poor one.I don’t have the time…I don’t have the money…I am very busy…There is too much competition…I am not skilled enough…There is a willingness and enthusiasm component to such rationalizations. Inother words, you may have other reasons to be unwilling and have a lack ofenthusiasm towards your novel ideas.The other reasons could be that you are constantly overwhelmed or do nothave the confidence or belief that you can sustain and move the idea forward.When your fear of the unknown collides with the rationalization process,a good idea dies a quick death.5. Quick and fast prototyping “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”― Peter F. Drucker
  6. 6. When there is no implementation of a great idea, that is what it remains, just agreat idea. With no force of action backing the idea, the idea gets swept intothe basket of desires and ends up in a shoebox in the attic.You may have a great idea but not have a clue of how to move forward.This is a very delicate stage because it is precisely here that you face themost uncertainty and discomfort. In the face of the BIG unknowns, a lot of uschoose certainty. We want things to be right and perfect.We want to have a detailed plan of how everything will work out. We want todo everything at once in one big swell swoop and hope everything willimplement in a big chunk. However, this is a setup for a lot of overwhelm andpossible failure and resistance.In his groundbreaking book, The Lean Startup, author Eric Ries describesquick and fast prototyping or building as a method for success for startups.Implement this message for your own ideas and you have a quick getting intothe field and testing out your idea.Ries describes the build-measure-learn feedback loop. According to Ries, Youcan turn your ideas into products by building them quickly into a minimumviable product and measure how your customers respond. Based on thefeedback, you can choose to learn, pivot and change direction or persevereand move forward.If you want to open a bakery, you may want to bake some items and callfriends over and have them call their friends for coffee and cupcakes.Remember that you will need a few quickly implementable steps to figure outthe effectiveness of an idea. Most of us get caught up in the many detailsand end up not launching anything at all.Details matter but so does implementation of ideas. Even if your idea is notfully formed, it benefits you greatly to allow it to see the light of day by quickimplementation.Make it so simple that you cannot possibly fail. A few small steps is all ittakes to find out if your idea is worthy of attention or just a pipe dream.6. How about using feedback and failure to direct youforward
  7. 7. Improvising your ideas in critical for success and moving forward.This is a huge deal breaker for many.When your idea is not accepted in its entirety, you may want to just throw inthe towel and end the project. You may get upset that your idea was notaccepted as you conceived it. It feels like your child just got a rejection letter.But often, the pot of gold lies at the end of the rainbow. You just need torepurpose your idea and implement versions of it that are useful.For example, if the bakery idea is not being well received, you may specializeinto niche elements such as hosting tea parties etc based on feedback andactual experimentation.If you can connect what you like doing with what people really want andare willing to pay for, you have a viable idea. And it may meanimprovising your idea and repurposing it for success.7. Determination and the willingness to be flexibleUltimately, if you are very determined to make your idea work and are flexibleenough to make changes, you are very likely to succeed. Even if you do notsucceed, you will learn critical skills that you can implement elsewhere.By engaging your idea, you will learn many new skills. For example, if youbegin an online store for paper and stationery, even if it does not do well, youwill have learnt new skills. You will have learnt how to create a website, how toset up secure e-carts for sales, how to source items and how to offer goodcustomer service among other skills.These skills can be used to implement other ideas in the future.What about you? Do you believe that there are no bad ideas and that ideasneed to be actively sought after, encouraged and pursued?Image Credit: Mauricio Ulloa via CompfightHarish is a personal development blogger, writer and teacher. You canconnect with him over at his blog: Launchyourgenius and sign up for freeinspiring updates about being creative, embracing abundance and sharing yourradiance.