How to Get a Quantity and Quality of Ideas That You Will Never Get From Innovation Brainstorming.

This is the second in a series of four blogs on Quantum Idea Generation 2.0. There are three things you should know about how I want to help you with this series of blogs.

First, it is about innovation in its broadest meaning – whenever you need ideas to make something that exists better and/or to develop something entirely new.

Second, I share with you the absolute best and most helpful innovation insights I’ve learned from a decades long career. My career started at Procter & Gamble as a senior leader and executive for 16 years, moved on to be Ernest Gallo’s vice president of marketing for 10 years, then taught in the school of management at Arizona State University for six years, and I have been a leader in the innovation consulting business for almost 2 decades helping both Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurs. Lastly, I am the producer of the Innovation Best practices podcast with thousands of listeners and over 104 countries and more than 300 episodes. You can go to i2ge.com/podcast or iTunes.

Here is a brief review of Quantum Idea Generation 2.0. In the previous blog I covered:

  • Quantum idea generation produces at least 12 times more ideas than brainstorming.
  • To generate these powerful results you need to use four elements – diversity, stimulus, brain type, and eliminate fear and have fun.

This blog addresses how diversity jump starts idea generation.

Today were going to dive deep into the topic of how you bring powerful diversity into an idea generating meeting. As you plan for an important innovation idea generating meeting, diversity of people in the meeting should be one of your most important and first considerations. This blog covers important “must haves” in planning diversity and provide a couple of real diversity examples.

Personal perspective: learning about the power of diversity was a very powerful personal lesson for me. I learned that however good I thought my solutions and ideas were, if I invited in the right kind of diversity, my best ideas always became much, much better ideas. So, while the focus of this blog is on diversity and Quantum Idea Generation 2.0 as it relates to business, this blog can also be a significant personal benefit to you.

Define diversity – a wide range of skills and experiences that are relevant to the need for ideas. Diversity is extremely important because people with different experiences and insights will have different possible solutions to your need – diversity is that simple and that powerful. Diversity also produces bigger and higher quality ideas versus no diversity.

Here are the three levels of diversity.

  1. First, if you want to develop innovative new products, you may want people from marketing, sales, research, product development, and maybe even manufacturing and finance.
  2. Second, you definitely want people from inside the company that have these skills and experiences, but you also want to seriously consider finding and bringing in external experts that have different but relevant skills and experiences.
  3. Third, you can expand diversity by bringing in highly experienced and successful people with general management experience to ensure you get a bigger picture view of potential opportunities.

Here is why is diversity so important.

  • It is very difficult to get out of the box thinking from people that live in the box.
    • Company culture is very powerful. Most cultures strictly define what the company will do and will not do. This can severely limit possibility thinking.
    • While it is not impossible to get out of the box thinking from people that live in the box, it is very risky to limit diversity only to people who are part of the company.
  • You want to bring in people with different and broader skills and experiences. When it comes to external expertise, you want these skills and experiences to be relevant to the need, but that do not duplicate the skills and experiences of people inside the company.
  • This is very important – big ideas happen when internal experts explore possibilities with external experts who see things in different and often better ways than the internal people alone. What happens is you get the best of the internal and external expertise to come together to create truly breakthrough ideas.

Here are some other diversity considerations.

  • You only want people who are engaged with the need. Put another way, you want people who really care about successfully meeting the need.
  • You never want to have somebody in the room just because their boss told him to be there.
  • You never want to have anybody in the room that does not want to really, really want to be there.

Here are some real-world examples of diversity used by Innovate2Grow Experts/i2ge.com.

  • Real-world example number one: Nestlé.
    • The need: Nestlé needed some breakthrough ideas for some of its frozen food products. They wanted some specific breakthrough ideas that would reduce cooking times while improving the quality of the cooked food. Very challenging project – “good luck.”
    • How we developed diversity for this project.
      • Nestlé people: we only wanted people who were deeply passionate about making the breakthrough.
        • Marketing: we selected the three key marketing people who first identified the opportunity and need. Their career progress could be significantly influenced by a positive result on this project.
        • Research: we brought in the key internal expert in consumer research for this product type.
        • Product development: we brought in several people with the most expertise for these products. These were highly skilled, capable people.
      • External relevant expertise. We identified the world’s leading external experts in high quality, fast cooking of frozen foods. i2Ge’s key leaders conducted the research and interviews necessary to find these people.
        • Cornell professor: he had conducted unpublished research on the exact Nestle need and had identified a breakthrough approach. His contributions quickly enabled the idea session to produce several breakthrough ideas.
        • Penn State professor: he also had conducted breakthrough research in this area. His insights also produced very promising possibilities.
        • Ohio State professor: he conducted similar research five years ago that very few others were aware of. His insights contributed to making significant improvements to the first round of ideas.
        • Microwave cooking expert: we found the world’s leading expert on how microwave ovens work. He was incredibly helpful in helping to combine multiple insights and possibilities into a select few with the greatest promise for success.
      • External bigger picture business and engineering expertise. These people are part of the Innovate2Grow team of experts. Here is a sample of the team of experts brought into this session.
        • A former president and CEO of a major company who prior to moving to this company was the youngest ever general manager and group vice president at Procter & Gamble.
        • The former president of Eureka Ranch that had been one of the preeminent innovation companies in America. She personally led more innovation projects than probably any other person in America.
        • The president of a major outdoor sporting company. A graduate of Harvard Business School, he takes time off from his full-time job to participate in the sessions.
        • A top consumer research expert with expertise across many product categories for United States and international clients.
          • In this example, there was a two day session to develop breakthrough ideas. There were about 20 total people involved in the session. The result was breakthrough ideas that Nestlé developed.
            • Noon the first day comment
            • Research of these ideas following the meeting demonstrated that these ideas had more than twice the chances for long-term success as compared to the average new product idea.
          • Real-world example number two: Faith Plumbing.
            • Background: this local plumbing company specialized in plumbing for new apartment construction projects.
            • The need: in the early stages of a new construction project, the plumbing site foreman encountered unexpected installation challenges. These challenges put additional work on hold until they resolved the problem. Having a crew standing around waiting for a problem to be solved, is an expensive proposition to a small company.
            • The diversity solution: I was the coach for the owner of the company. I knew the importance and degree of difficulty of the situation they faced. Fixing the problem the first time was a very high priority. I quickly suggested a meeting at the construction site two hours after we learned of the need. I knew that we needed diverse skills and experiences if we were to solve the problem the first time.
              • Plumbing site foreman: he had worked over 10 years with my client and had more than 20 years of total plumbing experience on major projects.
              • My client, the plumbing company owner: 30 years of owning a plumbing company and one of the most resourceful, creative people in the plumbing industry.
              • The general contractor’s site foreman: he had more than 15 years of general contractor experience, which means he had a quality understanding of the big picture needs and challenges.
              • The four of us met at the worksite. We visually examined the problem. I informally use the quantum idea generation process that included the high quality and quickly assembled diverse expertise.
              • In less than 60 minutes we devised a highly innovative solution – never before used in this kind of situation. The solution worked in the five different configurations present at the worksite. The solution became a new standard used by both the general contractor and the plumbing company.

Here is a summary of what we have covered today.

  • First, diversity is a critical component of quantum idea generation. When diversity is used with the other three critical components, you consistently expect at least 12 times more ideas then brainstorming.
  • Second, into an innovation meeting you want to bring people with a range of skills and experiences that relate to each other but do not duplicate skills and experiences.
  • Third, for major innovation needs, it helps if you bringing diversity from three sources. You want the best internal expertise, expertise from outside the company, and people with broader general management perspective. Regarding external expertise, ideally it’s from outside the company but it can also be from another division our sister company.

If you want help with your innovation program, we can help you achieve dramatically better innovation results in 90 days or less. Guaranteed. We help businesses of all kinds and sizes to consistently double their innovation success rate by creating innovative solutions that are dramatically better than all of their competition. We can consistently do this because Innovate2Grow Experts is the only innovation consultancy using the eight most proven innovation best practices.

At Innovate2Grow Experts we can help you in two fundamental ways. First, we can collaboratively work with you in a variety of ways on a specific innovation need. Second, if you are interested in being trained at a high level on the eight most proven innovation best practices, you can start for free.

Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to reconnecting with you soon. Have a great day.

Richard Haasnoot, Head Coach, Innovate2Grow Experts/i2ge.com

Founder and Producer, Innovation Best Practices podcast i2ge.com/podcast

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