Thursday, October 09, 2003 | A Perfect Brainstorm Inc talks to UTexas at Arlington's Paul Paulus who has apparently delved into the science behind brainstorming to find out what is effective and why. Apparently, his research has yielded indicated such findings as the fact that ideas are better written down than said out loud, that the ideal brainstorm requires plenty of breaks, and that the best ideas come out at the end of the brainstorm rather than the beginning. Hardly groundbreaking stuff that - but he has also quantified some pretty interesting findings:

*Individual Brainstorming is better than group brainstorming (due to the extra distractions and group dynamics the groups impose on themselves) - as a result, groups generate fewer ideas that individuals

*The best results come from either alternating individual and group sessions, or "brainwriting" where participants write their ideas down on paper or electronically which are then passed around the group for feedback and to add his/her ideas and so on (This collaborative building process is also why the best Idea Management processes incorporate collaborative spaces for idea development - Research we've conducted on this agrees with Paulus' findings in that it results in ideas being collected that are severalfold better in quality and content than ideas collected with other processes and methods)

*Another big issue is in problem definition - "you need to be focused enough so the task is not too daunting, but not so narrow it discourages creativity" according to Paulus. Again, Imaginatik Research has also found similar issues - and one Imaginatik client got the nail on the head when he said "You really get the answers to the questions you ask". In other words, ask vague questions, you will at best get vague answers. Ask overly detailed questions, and you will get very precise answers. There is a quality/quantity balance to be achieved in idea collection

*Paulus believes quantity is more important than quality.

*Deborah Ancona of MIT's Sloan School rightly points out that ideas must be implemented in order to not discourage people from cracking their brains to help you out. Likewise at Imaginatik Research we've found that it is essential for companies to start Idea Collection events with committed resources at the ready to implement the results of the Event. Although you don't necessarily need to implement if somehow you aren't able to get a useful idea (although if you generate enough quantity, the chances that happens are minimal) you need to be prepared to act on them and have an active committment to do so.

Ending on a more fun note, the article reflects upon why so many great ideas are conceived in the shower... An excellent read, worthwhile the time

The Business of Ideas - Winston-Salem Journal an interesting article from the Associated Press which looks at the activities that IBM and a whole bunch of other big companies are doing to re-energize their research staff to create new and more wonderful things that they can use.

Monday, October 06, 2003

InformationWeek > Innovation > Immelt's Four Rules For Fostering Innovation > September 25, 2003 GE's Chairman and CEO briefly goes through his 4 Rules for fostering innovation. They are

1) Prepare the Organization to Innovate - I like this as a concept, although Immelt "prepared" his company by adding more engineers to his executive staff - which sort of makes it look like by "innovation" he is referring to simply technological innovation - and I would argue that technology, although important, is but one area to look at in the innovation spectrum.
2) Pick the Right Places to Innovate - again Immelt makes it clear that he's focusing very much on R&D in his definition of Innovation here - whereas best practice would be to spread Innovation beyond the traditional boundaries of R&D and into all aspects of the business where value can be attained.
3) Make Sure Innovation has a Measurable Return - In much the same way that the KM movement has been dying through an insistence on harvesting knowledge from employees for the sake of collecting it - innovation done for the sake of it is also not effective. It is important to have defined and measurable goals - and to look to innovate primarily in areas where there is a need or opportunity to innovate.
4) Use Size as an advantage - I'll expand Immelt's comments on this to include small companies too - there are definate advantage to being big - but there are also many advantages to being small - play to your strengths!

Friday, October 03, 2003 - Fast Forward - Microsoft Is Not Complacent About Innovation Fortune's David Kirkpatrick talks to Rick Rashid who runs Microsoft Research - the mavrick group within Mincrosoft that has now overtaken Xerox PARC as the most talked about innovative research facility where the technology of the future is being built. I recently went to a conference where Microsoft Research were presenting - and they do indeed have some fascinating stuff they're working on - some of which are now becoming commercially available. SPOT for example, (Smart Personal Object Technology) is looking at putting intelligence into everyday object. One of the first such commercially available objects is a Dick Tracy -like watch that uses radio signals to communicate with local sources and downloads everything from the local time, weather, your e-mail, your stocks, etc all into a cool little watch.

Needless to say, they have some unusual practices to encourage their scientists to be innovative. No budgeting for example (something I'm sure only Microsoft could get away with!). This article is definately worth a read - as is a trip to Microsoft Research's website to get an idea of some of the "crazy" things they're working on...

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Fastcompany - Magazine Article - Gradual Evolution - the need for a continuos effort
This little article synthesizes something that we believe in deeply: success in companies is the result of a continuous effort to improve and innovate. Miraculous quick fixes to a company's problems or great new products do not come by chance. Great companies are the result of the on-going contributions made by the people that worked and work in them. Companies that want to succeed should start thinking about ways in which they can foster and leverage their agregated capacity to improve. The limited capacity to finance new initiatives demands to intensively seek and evaluate new ideas, to ensure that the very best options are selected.