Innovation Management ? Capturing Ideas

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Creativity can be defined as problem identification and idea generation whilst innovation can be defined as idea selection, development and commercialisation.

There are other useful definitions in this field, for example, creativity can be defined as consisting of a number of ideas, a number of diverse ideas and a number of novel ideas.

There are distinct processes that enhance problem identification and idea generation and, similarly, distinct processes that enhance idea selection, development and commercialisation. Whilst there is no sure fire route to commercial success, these processes improve the probability that good ideas will be generated and selected and that investment in developing and commercialising those ideas will not be wasted.

Capturing Ideas

The Economist (2003b) states that 3000 bright ideas are needed for 100 worthwhile projects, which in turn will be winnowed down to four development programmes for new products. And four such development programmes are the minimum needed to stand any chance of getting one winner.

From the above it is clear that a large number of good ideas are required before the innovation process can truly begin. Given that the bright ideas themselves would have been chosen from a larger pool of general ideas, the problem becomes one of maximising idea generation before idea selection begins.

All too often idea generation is a conscious process. Leaders will herd people into a room with a flip chart, conduct a "brainstorming" session and state a problem (without deeper analysis) and ask for ideas. However, this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how ideas occur.

It is true that problem identification results in better output when it is conducted consciously ? i.e. when people pay attention to it. However, once problems a have been addressed and idea generation begins, it is more productive to:

a) Consciously generate ideas. Time limits and incremental goals produce more output than a "do your best" approach.

b) Realise that incubation is valuable. The mind will subconsciously work on problems and, over a period of time, will generate richer solutions than time pressure sometime allows.

Because of b) and the fact that idea generation is a cognitive process, many more ideas are generated by individuals than is appreciated. The task thus becomes one of collecting all the ideas produced. Mundane methods include:

a) Carry around a tape recorder. In one day the author noted more than sixty ideas that popped into his head.

b) Keep paper and pen handy. This is especially useful when an idea has to be expanded into a structure. For example, an idea for a screenplay can be mapped against a framework to produce a step-outline quite rapidly.

These and other topics are covered in depth in the MBA dissertation on Managing Creativity & Innovation, which can be purchased (along with a Creativity and Innovation DIY Audit, Good Idea Generator Software and Power Point Presentation) from

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Kal Bishop, MBA


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Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached on

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