Innovation Tautogram — A Simple and Powerful Innovation Tool

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The human vocabulary with millions of words is adequate to explain all of our expectations and experiences, even those which are imagined. Why not harness the power of language to discover new products and services? Author Shanta R Yapa shares the Innovation Tautogram technique, which can be used as an individual or a group exercise.

Humans around the world use millions of words in thousands of languages to explain and communicate their attitudes, emotions, anxiety, aspirations, etc. Experiences, irrespective of whether they are actual or desired, are already in the vocabulary of different languages but not available to us as actual products, features and processes. We have words to describe any unidentified flying object if seen suddenly, a creature not seen hitherto on the earth, an out of the world feeling a product can offer, a need felt, etc. Use this powerful brainstorming technique to mine your vocabulary database in a random way to bridge the gap between what is real and what is imagined.

Tendency to think rationally

Most of us spend many years learning things pertaining to our own disciplines. Therefore, our minds are trained and framed to think logically or rationally within those domains. Coming out of the box makes us feel uncomfortable. We are afraid, or simply not bothered to challenge the concepts, principles or theories we learn at the beginning of our professions.

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Intuition and Deliberation for Better Decision-Making

We live in an age of change and uncertainty. For businesses, this means that only the most versatile survive —innovate or die. Simply adapting to the digital age is not enough: company survival requires explorative business strategies, to find new opportunities to improve and renew products and services. To attain explorative success you need a combination of both deliberate thinking and intuitive thinking. This article explores how you can balance the two.

In this article we bridge theory and practice on organizing imagination and innovation by extracting key implications and offering new insights to innovation practitioners. This article builds on The Role of Intuition and Deliberation for Exploitation and Exploration Success by Kurt Matzler, Borislav Uzelac, and Florian Bauer and explains why intuition and deliberation jointly make for better decision-making.

Rapid developments in computing have led to an ever-increasing digitization, causing unprecedented rates of change to society. We live in an age of change and uncertainty.

The Role of Intuition and Deliberation for Exploitation and Exploration Success, examines the link between explorative and exploitative business strategies on the one hand, and intuitive and analytical deliberate thinking on the other. Its authors, Kurt Matzler, Borislav Uzelac and Florian Bauer find that:

  • Intuitive and deliberate thinking are not two opposing poles of a continuum, but two intertwined modes of information processing.
  • Both intuitive and deliberate decision-making are positively associated with explorative success.

To read full article about Intuition and Deliberation for Better Decision-Making visit Innovation Management.

A Process for Innovation Planning

All too often, hastily planned brainstorming sessions bring up a lot of good ideas that somehow never get used, while the boring kinds of ideas you are trying to get away from seem to be used again and again. One reason for this is the lack of an innovation plan, according to Jeffrey Baumgartner.

“We need fresh ideas for the Acme proposal. Let’s all sit down and brainstorm ideas some time this week.” How often have you heard something like that at your office? How often have the creative ideas of the brainstorming session been implemented? All too often, hastily planned brainstorming sessions bring up a lot of good ideas that somehow never get used, while the boring kinds of ideas you are trying to get away from seem to be used again and again.

One reason for this is the lack of an innovation plan. I am not talking about a grand plan for your entire corporate strategy. Rather, I am talking about developing an innovation plan for a single issue or project.

Your Goal/Problem

The first step of your innovation plan is to state the goal or problem. Imagine you are a product manager at a mobile telephony company and want to introduce new services to your clients.

Before putting stating a problem like “new services”, you need to think about your goal in a little more detail. Do you want to develop new revenue streams for your company or do you want to add additional free services? Are you targeting a specific group ­ such as business users or teenagers? Or should determining the target group be part of your goal? Bear in mind that I have used the term “goal” here. Think not just about what kind of ideas you want ­ but the goal of the ideas. Finally, be sure you express the goal in a way that is clear to everyone on your team.

You also need to establish how far you will take the innovation. Are you simply preparing a proposal for management or will you be responsible for the entire project life-cycle or does the limit of your responsibility fall somewhere in between?

Once the goal is stated, you should also consider several other issues:

Participants: Who will participate in your innovation plan? Can you solicit ideas from the entire organization or will you be restricted to a specific project team? Who can you call upon for evaluation and pre-implementation?

Budget: What is the budget for capturing and developing this idea?

Resources: What resources will be available for capturing and developing this idea? What tools do you need? Can you hire facilitators or an ideas campaign tool? Can you hire facilities for brainstorming? What internal resources will be available to you?

Timeframe: How much time do you have to capture and develop your ideas.

Reward(s): are you offering any rewards for ideas? You might want to offer a small reward for the best ideas. One well known company offers small cash rewards and dinner coupons to people who contribute exceptional ideas. Others offer gifts, points or recognition. If you are working with a relatively small team, you might consider rewarding the entire team at the completion of the product ­ or at major milestones if the project is long-term.

If you like to push the envelop and have fun, consider adopting a theme for this innovation plan. Themes are not necessary, but can be an effective means of focusing creativity in new ways and tying together various aspects of innovation management. Keeping to our example of a mobile telephony company, you could adopt the theme of “amusement parks”. In other words, you would use amusement parks as a metaphor when generating ideas, implementing ideas and even naming new services that you devise. This doesn’t mean that everything has to be about amusement parks. Rather, amusement parks are simply a focus of the team’s thinking.

Idea-generation methods

Now, you are ready to plan how you will generate ideas. Don’t limit yourself to brainstorming, there are several effective team ideation approaches worth considering:

Brainstorming: is best when time is limited or the team is relatively small and in one location. Brainstorming, in a nutshell, is getting a group of people together in a space and shouting out ideas for a limited time period. People build on each others’ ideas and the creative energy pushes people to think more creatively and propose more radical ideas.

Ideas campaigns: are best when there is more time or the team is large and dispersed across several locations. An ideas campaign is rather like a long, drawn out brainstorming session where people come in to the campaign from time to time, share an idea or two, build on other people’s ideas and then leave. An ideas campaign usually lasts from two to six weeks.

Experimentation: is best when ideas are technical in nature. Experimentation is basically a matter of putting together various configurations and seeing how they work. Experimenting would not be an effective approach for our mobile telephony company example of developing a new service. On the other hand, if the innovation plan was about improving the efficiency of sending multimedia data across a GSM network, experimenting would probably be an important part of your innovation plan.

Other approaches to ideation can include outsourcing creativity to another company, buying the rights to an established idea or buying a company that has innovative products you would like to be able to offer your customers.

Once you start generating ideas, bear in mind that there is a tendency in teams to embrace the first creative idea that you capture. This can be a mistake. Rather you should push that first creative idea further and see if you can make it even more creative. At the same time, you should push people to come up with more creative ideas. This pushing for further creativity is important and should be included in your innovation online learning plan.

Pushing ideas further could be a matter of doing brainstorming sessions on your best ideas, in order to develop them further. Alternatively, you could ask people to think about the best ideas overnight and give you more developed ideas in the morning. “Sleeping” on an idea is an excellent way to push it.

Pushing people’s creativity further is about positive feedback, explicitly encouraging more radical thinking and inspiration. Inspiration includes all kinds of things, such as: bringing in professional brainstorming facilitators; taking the team to an art museum or ballet performance; participating in activities that open the mind; and using alternative brainstorming approaches.

Finally, you need to allot a specific time frame for the idea generation phase.

Initial evaluation

Once you have captured some good ideas, you need to evaluate them to determine which are worth taking further. The 5×5 criteria matrix is probably the most efficient initial evaluation method. To do a 5×5 criteria matrix, you simply determine five criteria by which you can rank promising ideas. You then look at each idea, determine how well it meets each criterion and grant it 0-5 points for that criterion. Once you are finished, add up the points and you will have overall point scores for each idea. This is a very good basis for determining which ideas should go on to the next stage.

Other people prefer open discussion meetings for determining which ideas to take further. These can also be effective, although such meetings are usually less efficient and less objective than criteria based evaluation ­ at least for the initial evaluation. We recommend that you have an open discussion based meeting AFTER the criteria based evaluation in order to clarify any outstanding issues and discuss how promising ideas could be improved further based on the evaluation results.

You also need to allot some time to the evaluation phase.

Report

If you are not involved in implementing the idea, the chances are your responsibility will end with making a report to your superior or to a project development team. If so, you can readily prepare a report based on the top ideas and their evaluations.

If you are involved in the implementation, on the other hand, you will want to go directly to the next step.

Pre-implementation

Pre-implementation is a preliminary action, such as building a business case, doing market research, making a prototype or running a limited trial in order to test an idea.

You will doubtless already have standard pre-implementation methods in your company for developing ideas into products or services. Nevertheless, it is important to include the pre-implementation in your innovation plan. You also need to determine how much time to allot the pre-implementation.

Implementation

By now, you should have a small number of very good and well tested ideas. It is time to implement them.

By developing such a structured innovation plan for specific projects, you can look forward to more creative ideas and a higher level of implementation of those ideas.