"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I just read that innovation strategist Phil McKinney, known as 'Mr Innovation' in Silicon Valley, has many bold words of criticism about the traditional brainstorming approach that is the main tool used by individuals and companies today:

1.No upfront effort to focus the process to a specific area.
Without applying some focus to the effort, ideas will be random. Should the session focus on new products or in improving existing offering? Should we look at new geographies and what new ideas could we come up with that will address its needs?

2.Poor structure to the question.
When you ask a question like “create a new product idea”, it becomes human nature to stop looking when they feel they’ve answered the question, thus the stalling of ideas after 30 to 45 minutes. What if you had a set of proven questions that would enable you to come up with more ideas of a much higher quality? For example, rather than asking the question “come up with a new product idea”, why not ask “which of my customer’s hassles could I bypass/reduce?” This question would force you to first list the hassles, then come up with ideas to bypass/reduce.

3.Lack of structure to the session.
As with most idea generation sessions, there is an objective “come up with a new product idea” but little or no structure to the session itself. What if you had a proven structure that ensures higher quality ideas and the assurance that you haven’t left possible areas of ideas un-searched.

4.No tools or skills to rank the ideas.
The list that the scribe typically distributes is unstructured and unranked resulting in the teams inability to take action against the list of ideas. What is needed is a question based tool that enables the team to confidently rank the ideas so that next steps are actionable against a much smaller list of possible ideas.

5.No commitment from management to take action.
Typically, management tasks a group to come up with some ideas (usually when a crisis is looming) but with no commitment to do anything. The result is the training of the participants that the activity is not important. Once management is convinced that there is a process that will result in higher quality ideas that are ranked, then management should make the commitment to execute a number of the top ranked ideas generated.

6.No process to move beyond the idea phase.
There is uncertainty about what to do next once you’ve established a ranking ideas. What are the proven approaches to go from idea to commercial launch??

He has even added that the foregoing issues are not limited to just brainstorming sessions. The same deficiencies exist in other idea generation/execution tools such as, Da Vinci Method, Mindmapping, SCAMPER, Lateral Thinking, Merlin Approach (sometimes called the Einstein Method).

Nevertheless, he qualifies himself with this comment:

"It’s not about us or our self criticism of our creativity skill; it’s about the process and skills being applied."

I concur, as already implied, that it boils down to the eventual application or final execution, & of course the end-result.

My good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, loves to exemplify it with the term: IDEAS TO CA$H!

What do you think?

[Phil McKinney has produced a 2-CD package on 'Creating Killer Innovations', available from Amazon. Unfortunately, Amazon does not ship it to Singapore.

Nonetheless, I must say that his corporate website is a goldmine of valuable insights! But you got to let your fingers do all the walking - with your mouse, of course!]

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