The thing is, valuable ideas and creative brilliance are rarely the preserve of one person. There are very few of ‘those innovator types’ – the mad professors with whizzbang inventions, or the advertising gurus writing the next John Lewis campaign. They are even rarer in the corporate business world, which tends to deter or constrain the more ‘out there’ thinkers.
At the other end of the spectrum are the structured types. The project managers and über organisers. The safe pairs of hands and data junkies. These guys are often viewed as a creativity vacuum – even though without them, most great ideas wouldn’t see the light of day anyway.
So why did I bring my team together to keep us flexing that collective brain muscle?
Innovation. Creativity. Idea generation. Problem Solving. Lateral thinking. However you choose to frame it, it starts with looking at the world a little bit differently. And what better way of doing that than walking in another person’s shoes for a while, or (to misquote Edward de Bono rather shamelessly) trying on their hat. When we bring together and harness the brains of a diverse group of people, each of whom brings a different perspective, skill set and personality, we reach the edges of our usual thinking. Really great ideas happen when we hover at these edges, or go right over and peek across to the other side. Take a look at a lake, or meadow or forest. You’ll see that in nature, it’s at the edges that the really good stuff happens.
But what if you end up with a set of pie in the sky ideas that just distract your team from the important business of keeping the tills ringing?
Well, just as the more creative solutions come from the collective approach, so will the most robust sifting and validation. But stamping on our seedling ideas before we know what they are going to grow into is the surest way of limiting those ideas. In the workshops I run, I always separate the big picture, energy at the edges, hat wearing and shoe walking thinking from the important business of sorting, analysing and validating our ideas.
So for today, I’ll leave you with this: Your company has innovation and ideas aplenty. How you create the space and energy to unlock and articulate them is the real key.