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Online Extra: IDEO's Innovation Ideas


In The Ten Faces of Innovation, Thomas Kelley of design firm IDEO introduces the 10 roles that people can play in an organization to help foster innovation and new ideas. In between his descriptions of personas like the Collaborator and the Hurdler, he drops lots of other useful advice, from how to supercharge a brainstorming session to how to build teams that work. BusinessWeek has collected the best of those tips below:

Seven Secrets of Effective Brainstorming

1. Sharpen your focus. Focusing on a specific latent customer need or one step of the customer journey can often spark a good ideation session.

2. Mind the playground rules. Go for quantity, encourage wild ideas, be visual, defer judgement, one conversation at a time.

3. Number your ideas. Numbering your ideas motivates participants, sets a pace, and adds a little structure. A hundred ideas per hour is usually a sign of a good, fluid brainstorm.

4. Jump and build. You may have a flurry of ideas, and then they start to get repetitive or peter out. That's when the facilitator may need to suggest switching gears.

5. Remember to use the space. Write and draw your concepts with markers on giant Post-Its stuck to every vertical surface.

6. Stretch first. Ask attendees to do a little homework on the subject the night before. Play a zippy word game to clear the mind and set aside everyday distractions.

7. Get physical. At IDEO, we keep foam core, tubing, duct tape, hot-melt glue guns, and other prototyping basics on hand to sketch, diagram, and make models.

How to Build an Innovation Lab

1. Make room for 15 to 20 people. Even if the core project teams will be small, you'll want to share the results (and even work in process) with lots of your colleagues.

2. Dedicate the space to innovation. Your creative efforts need to live on without scheduling or moving.

3. Leave ample wall space for sketch boards, maps, pictures, and other engaging visuals. Don't use delicate surfaces or precious materials that would inhibit maximum creative use of all vertical and horizontal surfaces.

4. Locate your lab in a place convenient to most team members. Make it near enough for even part-time team members to drop in...but far enough away so they can't hear their desk phone ringing.

5. Foster an abundance mentality. Stock the lab with an oversupply of innovation staples: prototyping kits, Post-Its of every size and color, masking tape, blank storyboard frames, fat-tipped felt markets for drawing, X-Acto knives, and so on.

How to Observe with the Skill of an Anthropologist

1. Practice the Zen principle of "beginner's mind" -- they have the wisdom to observe with a truly open mind.

2. Embrace human behavior with all its surprises. Don't judge, empathize.

3. Draw inferences by listening to your intuition. Don't be afraid to draw on your own instincts when developing hypotheses about the emotional underpinnings of observed human behavior.

4. Seek out epiphanies through a sense of "vuja de." Vuja de is the opposite of déjà vu. It's a sense of seeing something for the first time, even if you have witnessed it many times before.

5. Search for clues in the trash bin. Look for insights where they're least expected -- before customers arrive, after they leave, even in the garbage. Look beyond the obvious, and seek inspiration in unusual places.

How to Cross-Pollinate

1. Show and tell. The IDEO Tech Box, a collection of hundreds of promising technologies, is a systematic approach to collecting and sharing what we know.

2. Hire people with diverse backgrounds. Sift through the job applications looking for someone who will expand your talent pool or stretch the firm's capabilities.

3. Create multidisciplinary project rooms and create lots of space for accidental or impromptu meetings among people from disparate groups.

4. Cross cultures and geographies. A well-blended international staff seems to cross-pollinate naturally from other cultures.

5. Host a weekly speaker series. Nearly every week, a world-class thinker shows up to share their thoughts with us.

6. Learn from visitors. Listen to what clients or prospective clients say about their industry, their company, their point of view.

7. Seek out diverse projects. A broad range of client work allows you to cross-pollinate from one world to another.

How to Build Better Teams

1. Coach more, direct less. Good executives and managers inspire their staffs to develop their confidence and skills so they can seize critical "big game" opportunities.

2. Celebrate passing. Break teams into smaller groups of three to six to increase the number of triangles where team members can pass ideas and responsibilities.

3. Everybody touches the ball. Find one or more responsibilities for every player.

4. Teach overlapping skills. Create opportunities for team members to assume nontraditional roles and push forward initiatives. Find out team members' unique passions and interests and put them to work.

5. Less dribbling, more goals. Encourage the sharing of ideas and initiatives. Solo dribbling can give a project the critical first push, but then you need teamwork to bring a project home.

How to Set Expectations -- the Seven Questions Every Company Should Ask Itself Before Launching an Innovation Program

1. How will your company define a successful innovation program?

2. How will your organization fund the innovation process?

3. What corporate resources will be available to support your effort?

4. How often will the stakeholder groups meet to review your innovation propositions?

5. How many task teams will you sponsor yearly? How often will you put together these teams?

6. How much logistical support will be given to your innovation staff?

7. What rewards or recognition can people expect for participating in this program?


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