Thursday, December 18, 2008

How to Rev Up Your Idea Factory

Fascinating post from Jim Carroll. I love the idea of an organization as an idea factory. Where do your organization's ideas come from? Is it a small insulated group at the top? Or do you have the openness and communications infrastructure to solicit and nurture ideas from anywhere in the organization? What about external stimuli and ideas? Are the boundaries of your organization permeable? That is do you have the ability to bring in ideas from the outside?
Unfortunately, I see many decision makers becoming more insulated and relying on an increasingly smaller group of advisers. Likewise, in tough economic times travel budgets and discretionary spending are the first to get cut - so fewer go to conferences and less opportunities to bring in thought-leaders. I think the key takeaway here is that there are ways to keep the idea factory running. As Carroll says, "maybe not at full tilt, but running nevertheless." Some of these strategies include:
  • pursuing remaining growth markets,
  • attacking new markets,
  • streamlining operations,
  • building new brands, and
  • finding new ways to grab customer mindshare.
The seven stages of economic grief - when do you innovate? - Trends & innovation expert Jim Carroll
there are many organizations entering a state of absolute paralysis. Idea factories are being turned off. The result is that we're not just entering an economic recession -- we're entering another idea recession, similar to what occurred with the last downturn starting in 2001.
What is so different time is the absolute speed with which ideas are shutting down -- the paralysis in some organizations at the leadership level is absolutely stunning. This got me thinking about the fast paced events of the last few weeks in the context of the seven stages of grief.

Then there are the innovation leaders. They're prepared to keep the idea factory running, maybe not at full tilt, but running nevertheless. They know that despite the fact that vast sections of the economy are tanking, there are still growth markets; opportunities to step ahead of your competitors. There are opportunities to attack new markets. To streamline operations, build new brands, grab customer mindshare in new ways.

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