Let’s begin by making clear the distinction between innovation and creative thinking: if innovation consists of implementing new ideas, creative thinking is the essential preceding step that allows us to come up with those new ideas. Of course, the goal is to innovate because generating ideas without putting some of them into practice doesn’t generate value, but to carry out this stage of transformation, quality raw material is needed: ideas.
When we think about coming up with new ideas, we often speak of the stage of idea generation. This is an important stage that we can optimise by using some of the many creativity techniques that will help us move beyond classic brainstorming.
However, as we can see in the following diagram, earlier and later stages exist that are essential if we wish to generate different ideas that contribute value. A common statement that shows us that these stages haven’t been correctly employed is: “I have lots of ideas, even too many, but in the end no interesting projects result”.
- The exploration stage: Reframe your problem:
Preparing the divergence stage is a key factor to achieving success. Unfortunately, businesses often don’t pay attention to it and instead go directly to generating ideas about “their problem”. However, the best way to come up with new ideas is to begin by looking for new ways of approaching the problem and transforming these into new and inspiring questions. We often depict the question as a torch, because changing the focus of the approach is like moving a torch: it lights up a new zone of possible answers.
- The divergence stage: Idea generation
There are many tools that can help us. It is important to use simple techniques that allow participants in a session to be able to dedicate their energy to thinking and not waste time on understanding procedures. The goal is quantity and not quality: if I have many ideas, some will unquestionably be good ones. If we concentrate solely on quality at this moment, we will use judgement and restrict ourselves to only the most rational ideas. The choice of tools is equally important to achieving a balance between ideas that are focused on improvement and ideas that are more groundbreaking (we need both). If we find a good focus with new questions, this stage is not the most complicated!
- The convergence stage:
This consists in “landing ideas”. Here too, our experience shows us that many companies don’t pay much attention to this step. It is, however, also a key stage: a list of ideas resulting from the idea generation stage is nothing more than raw material. If it is not given proper attention, its full value will be lost. It’s not possible to directly apply a selection process with criteria such as feasibility, profitability,… This is simply because ideas that are very different are not yet ready to defend themselves. What’s the point of eliminating an idea because it doesn’t appear to be very feasible if we’ve done nothing to make it more feasible?
- To “sell” the ideas:
According to our experience, the main reason why many ideas are not allowed to go through the next phase is rather due to a bad presentation (choosing a wrong focus, forgetting what your audience is looking for, trying to sell a big project instead of a pilot phase or a prototype, not preparing a good pitch,…) than to rational arguments
And you mustn’t forget that after Stage 4 the most important step still remains: putting the ideas into practice, innovating. If the process of Creative Thinking has been properly focused, we’ll have everything we need to achieve this!