From Report 103


I’ve often talked in this newsletter about long term issues in corporate innovation; issues like establishing a culture of innovation in your organisation, encouraging risk taking and so on. Today, just for fun, let’s look at some very short term, possibly quite crazy ideas for boosting your company’s creativity.

1. Rearrange the physical organisation of your office by moving people around randomly. Rather than put accounting people together with other accounting people; sales people with sales people; operational people with operational people and so on, mix people up so that an accountant might have her desk next to a saleswoman and a logistics specialist might have his desk next to a research scientist. Better still rearrange the physical organisation every quarter or so. While this will result in some communication inefficiency – people in the same division do, after all, often need to work together – it will certainly bring about more varied internal networking and breed new ideas as people from different departments work together, get to know each other and share ideas.

2. Hold staff meetings in varied locations. Why must you always have staff meetings in your boring meeting rooms? Why not hold them in a public library, a nearby park, a children’s playground, a pub, in a swimming pool, or any other location that is distinctly unbusinesslike? The unfamiliar surroundings will surely inspire people. To make the unusual locations more effective, tie them into the meeting somehow. If your company is having financial difficulties, hold a meeting in a swimming pool and discuss the importance of remaining afloat financially.

3. Put a person with no relevant experience in charge of a project. Need to do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of a new product concept? Why have a marketing person to do it when an engineer can do it completely differently? Admittedly, the engineer will probably not produce a typical SWOT analysis – and might even miss a few key issues a marketing expert would automatically see. But an engineer would almost certainly take a different approach and look at the problem in a different way than the experienced marketeer would. And looking at a problem from a different perspective is certain to produce different, creative solutions.

4. Run an ideas campaign (or competition) to come up with the craziest idea for a particular issue. And then provide the winner(s) with Euro 10,000 (approx: US$13,000) to actually fund their idea. Sure, the project may fail. But the winners will gain more than Euro 10,000 worth of training and discover a lot of great ideas along the way. Moreover, crazy ideas work more often than you might think – and the result could be a substantial return on your Euro 10,000 investment.

5. Ban e-mail and telephone use for internal communications for a day. Force people to get up and visit each other to discuss ideas. Moving around shakes up the brain cells and helps people think more clearly. Face to face conversations are usually in more depth than e- mail or telephone conversations. Physically walking across the office to talk to one person often results in meeting and speaking with several other people along the way; people who can bring new ideas to old problems and issues.

6. Come up with a running theme for the day, such as “cats” or “drinks” or “baking a cake” and apply the theme as a metaphor every where possible. For example, you select “baking a cake” as your theme for the day. Every project that day should then somehow tie into baking a cake. The sales people preparing a presentation should base it around the theme of baking a cake. The R&D people developing a prototype for a new product should think about baking cakes while brainstorming ideas for the prototype. And so on.

7. Get an eight year old child to act as a consultant for a day, offering advice on all issues you work on that day. While the child’s advice may lack the weight of experience of a seasoned professional, its comparative naivety will doubtless be inspirational and lead to new ideas that an experienced professional would be blind to.

8. For one week, use toys instead of PowerPoint slides as a presentation tool. For example, if you have to present your ideas on a new product launch, use a big box of Lego or building blocks as your presentation tool. It will force you to think about how you present data visually and will certainly capture the attention of participants in the meeting.

9. Apply “How would Winnie the Pooh [or George Washington or Queen Elizabeth I or Dagwood Bumstead or Jesus or whomever] tackle this problem” to all problems for a week. For example, if you are preparing a project proposal for a client, ask yourself: “How would Winnie-the-Pooh prepare and deliver this proposal.

10. Actively encourage that everyone take public transportation to work. Not only is this great for the environment, it is also good for the collective mind of your employees. If they are not driving to work,they can read, think, make notes and take more time to notice and be inspired by the scenery as they go to work.