How can you tell when someone is really innovative? These days, this question is on a lot of people’s minds as they look to expand their team and bring in people who have capabilities that will drive them forward with innovation.
We’ve developed a comprehensive tool called Questions for Hiring Innovators that has over 60 questions you can use to get at key capabilities around innovation. Some of those are things like Strategic Imagination, Provocative Inquiry, Creative Problem Solving, Agility, and Resilience. The probing questions are asked in interesting and open-ended ways to show you how people think and solve problems. For example:
- You have 5 minutes with the CEO. What question would you ask to get him/her thinking differently about the business?
- You’ve solved a problem in a totally different way. Explain how you did it and what the result … Read More »
What do you do to keep your antenna up? How do you and your teams look for what’s next? At futurethink, we use something called Futurist Sources. Futurists are people that know how to find possible, probable, and preferable futures for tomorrow. They use a mix of both mainstream and offbeat resources to help them figure it out.
Let me give you some examples: they might visit Shell’s website and look in the area on scenarios for the future to find alternative visions around energy. Or they might visit Long Bets, a site where visionaries of today place bets on what they think will happen tomorrow.
For this and other suggestions of how you can find the future, visit www.killthecompany.com
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Often, teams feel that by going to a contingency plan or Plan B, it’s bad. In fact, with innovation things rarely go to plan, so being able to teach your teams to plan for change is probably the best thing you can do. One technique that we use with companies is called Wild Cards. It helps them prepare for change by thinking in more creative ways. Here’s how it works:
Get everybody together and give them a similar aspirational challenge. For example, what if we had to be the most innovative product team, or service team, or company in the next 12 months? We have unlimited funds, timing, resources… how would we do it? Let them brainstorm, give them 10 minutes. But at 7 minutes, stop them, catch them off-guard and call “Wild Card.” You can do this verbally or you … Read More »
A powerful technique that we use with companies to help them get more value out of their existing intellectual property, products, or services is called 40 New Opportunities. It’s based on a technique called TRIZ, which is a Russian acronym that stands for “the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving.” 40 New Opportunities takes 40 new ways that you can look at your product, service, or business, and come up with new ideas you hadn’t thought of before.
Let me give an example. Let’s pretend you’re the owner of a movie theater business. You might be having a hard time right now with new entertainment options, on-demand video, and things that are taking people places other than your theater. What do you do? Using 40 New Opportunities, you can analyze your business in new ways.
Maybe one of the things you look at … Read More »
An effective technique that we use with organizations to stretch their thinking further is called Assumption Reversal. Too often, when we brainstorm we make assumptions around how something has to work or what has to be included in it for it to be a success. Those assumptions can often be wrong. Assumption Reversal allows you to take your assumptions and turn them on their head to create something totally new and different. Here’s how it works:
Let’s assume you’re coming up with new ideas for a restaurant. First, list all the things you assume have to go into a restaurant. You’ll say things like “it has to have food,” “it has to have a chef,” “it has to have a menu,” “it has to have tables.” The key to success is taking those assumptions and turning them on their head—maybe you … Read More »
One technique that we use with companies when they’re running out of new ideas in brainstorms is called Forced Connections. It helps you come up with more new and novel ideas around products, services, or a challenge that you have. Here’s how it works:
Let’s say you’re brainstorming ideas for a table and you’ve run out of steam. What we ask you to do is to find a stimulus in the room. Maybe it’s a marker, the exit sign or, in this instance, we’ll use popcorn.
Think of the characteristics that popcorn puts in your head. I’ll come up with 3 right now: let’s say popcorn is fun, it’s light, and it’s natural. What does that make you think of, related back to the table? Well, I can make a table more fun by giving it legs that stretch to outrageous lengths. … Read More »
Ask yourself this question: are you open to big ideas? Most people I ask, whether it’s in executive settings or in large conferences with hundreds of people, tend to say yes.
You might be surprised that you’re more resistant to new and novel ideas than you think. It’s a natural reaction, but we use a technique called PPCO with organizations to help them get in the mindset of possibilities versus being professional skeptics. PPCO is a technique that allows you to open your mind to something that’s new and different. Here’s how it works:
“P” is Pluses: what’s good about the idea that you’re evaluating?
The next “P” is Potential: what future benefits might result if we actually did something like this?
“C” is Concerns, ideally expressed as an open-ended question: how might we solve this problem? How might we think about overcoming the … Read More »
Getting your teams to envision the future is a really important exercise, but it can be very difficult. We’re constantly focused on what’s going to happen tomorrow, next month, or even next quarter, to the detriment of thinking about what’s going to happen in three, five, or ten years. I use a technique called Picture the Future to help teams think more long-term and be able to concentrate on what’s driving the business in the first place.
Get your teams together and have them think about this simple exercise: imagine that you’re in an airport and it’s five or ten years from now. You see your company on the front of a magazine or an e-zine. What does that magazine cover say?
Let me show you some examples of what a pharmaceutical company came up with. For example, here on the cover … Read More »
One tool that we love to use with companies that have a lot of barriers to innovation is called Impossible to Possible. Here’s how it works:
Get your teams into a room and pair them up. Have them take out a piece of paper and draw a t-chart in the middle of it. On the top left, write the word “Impossible.” On the top right, write the word “Possible.” Then, give teams either the same or different questions to start brainstorming around things that they think are impossible.
For example, maybe it’s an industry challenge—”What can we not do in our industry?” Maybe it’s an operations challenge—”What can we not do with our operations or business processes right now?” Let’s say you’re a financial services company. One of the things that you might write down as impossible is “We can’t partner with competitors for … Read More »
Sometimes, to be more innovative, we have to stop doing things. In fact, we have to streamline or eliminate the barriers that are holding us back from being more innovative in the first place. One technique that we use with organizations is called Kill a Stupid Rule. Here’s how it works:
Get your team into a room and ask them to brainstorm the following question: “If you could get rid of any rule, either kill it or change it, what rule would you choose and why?” Put some guardrails around the brainstorm. Designate “red rules,” those rules that cannot be touched because they are regulated by the government, or would be illegal if you changed them. Everything else is a “green rule” and it’s fair game to be changed.
After about 10 minutes of brainstorming, see what people come up with. You’ll … Read More »