The Art of Innovation – Part 3: Tips on Brainstorming

In The Art of Innovation, IDEO’s founder Tom Kelley writes his lessons in creativity from years of success through innovation. In this three-part series, I will take you through key takeaways from the book. This third part contains IDEO’s tips on brainstorming to enhance creativity.

7 Tips to Enhance Creativity

  • Act, sketch and mould physically, let the space of the room indicate the development of ideas (fill with paper)
  • Build and jump, let ideas flow then switch viewpoints or move laterally to keep the ideas coming
  • Defer judgement and criticism
  • Number ideas and go for quantity (100 ideas per hour)
  • Perform content related preparation and bring props for inspiration
  • Sharpen the focus outward, start with a well-defined customer need not on an organizational goal
  • Warm up by clearing the mind with a fast paced word game

5 Dangerous Habits

  • Asking experts in the target field gives depth not breadth
  • Bosses speaking first sets boundaries on communication
  • Disallowing silly ideas restricts wild, potentially successful, ideas
  • Forcing turns prevents ideas flowing naturally
  • Recording everything breaks the flow of the brainstorm, assign a scribe and keep the energy

The Art of Innovation – Part 2: Company Mindset

In The Art of Innovation, IDEO’s founder Tom Kelley writes his lessons in creativity from years of success through innovation. In this three-part series, I will take you through key takeaways from the book. This second part is about how IDEO helps companies to adapt their mindset to become more innovative.

Step 1 – Know the Future

Innovation happens by looking at what isn’t there —Jake Burton

Know the soon to be state of the art. Each industry has places where you make connections and hear about the latest products. No one gets ahead copying products that are already established.

Asking child-like questions of “Why?” and “Why not?” helps to prevent assumptions interfering when evaluating an opportunity. Learn from the people who break the rules, perhaps adapting an existing product to a new use-case. Watch people struggle with existing products in new environments.

Step 2 – Hire Great People

Pro-actively hire the intellectually curious. If you hire the right people, everything else will take care of itself.

People perform when they feel special and sometimes the best inspiration is not doing work. Everyone has a creative side but it requires training like any skill. The person who tails endlessly at his desk is unlikely to be the one hatching a great innovation.

When you are stuck on a tough decision or have a problem that you do not understand, talk to all the smart people who you know.

Step 3 – Office Environment

The best offices celebrate teamwork and a high people density makes the office pulse. Make desks movable and group project members together so that space is just for teamwork and not owned by a person or group.

Provide good food and encourage play to have constant off-site energy. There should be no need for a physical off-site because creativity should flow in the office. The workspace should communicate positivity to both employees and visitors.

Step 4 – Dropping Internal Barriers

The biggest barrier to innovation is company mindset. Senior managers must encourage employees to break rules and fail forward so that change is part of the culture.

Success has a tendency to cripple future product development. Sticking with an existing product range is safer but loses in the long run. Instead, build products fast and leapfrog other companies in the market.

The Art of Innovation – Part 1: Building Experiences

In The Art of Innovation, IDEO’s founder Tom Kelley writes his lessons in creativity from years of success through innovation. In this three part series, I will take you through key takeaways from the book. This first part is about how IDEO builds product experiences.

IDEO uses a Five Step Method. First Understand the market, client and technology. Then Observe for gaps in the market and difficulties that customers face. Visualize how a solution can solve these difficulties with roll plays, storyboards and prototypes. Evaluate this solution and refine over several prototypes. Implement and market the solution, turning it into a commercial product.

Step 1 – Design

Focus on verbs not nouns, and design experiences not products. Optimize the common case first and focus on the points where people interact with the product.

Create five designs in the first week and present these to the project stakeholders to request feedback. Use their comments to refine the initial designs before making a prototype.

Step 2 – Prototyping

Never go to a meeting without a prototype. —Dermis Boyle

The process of creating a prototype sparks innovation, which is crucial for success. The project course can be corrected earlier and more often. Pitch the product in stages as the it develops. First show a rough sketch, then a cheap foam model.

When presenting a product, a prototype is worth a thousand pictures, and each picture is worth a thousand words. Prototypes are harder to reject but still need a good performance to have impact. Make trailers for each visual prototype and combine them with a great entrance.

Step 3 – Refinement

Once you have the first version of a product, test it as if you had never seen it before. It should be easy to understand, aim for the simplicity of tear-open tissues.

Once customers start using products you need to refine them. Refinement is asking what you do not need in the product and then removing it. The second version of a product should be simpler than the first. Always beware of the feature creep that happens when real innovation stalls.

Many products can be improved when observed in action. Get observers with in-depth knowledge of the product to watch potential customers interacting with it.

Step 4 – Marketing

If you can’t make a t-shirt about it, maybe you don’t have a compelling story

The energy and effort put into marketing the product can be the difference between it being a hit or miss. Adoption can take forceful marketing. Transform the way you are perceived and become sanctioned by the market. Do not advertise failures because it can prevent market acceptance.