Well, it’s Friday the 13th, the day when conversations turn to fear of all things thirteen. Really, though, here’s no need to be afraid. Yesterday we were getting ready for an upcoming project with Wako Takayama of Innovation Games and Lowell Lindstrom of the Oobeya Group, and it reminded us that it’s a good time to think about some of the things that make creative problem-solving turn out on the lucky side. So today we’re going to give you thirteen great tips for your next innovation project.
1. Start with people – bring together stakeholders who are experiencing, causing, and responsible for fixing problems or challenges in the same room.
2. Make some ground rules – like our “no buts” rule for getting concerns and ideas on the table. (Try it! Next time you’re engaging your customer or a colleague, refrain from saying “but” at any point when responding to their questions or concerns).
3. Have fun! The more pleasurable the experience (regardless of how onerous the issue), the more likely everyone will be open to new ideas or to different perspectives.
4. Use a hammer only if you’re trying to impact a nail – that is, use the right tool or technique to elicit feedback, in a way that’s comfortable and non-threatening for the person who’s responding.
5. Plan the questions – don’t assume the answers.
6. Use teams to create connections and healthy competition – there’s safety in numbers and each team-member brings additional knowledge or understanding – whether you’re in the discovery phase, or the action phase of the project.
7. Be wild! What’s the craziest version of the problem you’ve ever seen? By being as outlandish as possible, people can see that their issue really isn’t so strange after all.
8. Vote or promote – get all the players to have a hand in deciding which problems should be solved first. Democracy helps foster cooperation.
9. Mix it up – make sure you move out of the safety zone by creating opportunities to interact with someone other than “the usual suspects”.
10. Write it down. Draw it. Sticky-note it. Play it. Sing it. Rhyme it. Do something that involves creative expression of the problem or solution. It will help it be more understandable for a variety of learners, and it will transfer potential fear or embarrassment about the idea, to the execution of the activity.
11. Remember to look for solutions – identifying the problems is only half the battle.
12. Create a commitment process – and involve everyone. This removes “occasions of sin” – situations where stakeholders can shirk responsibility later by saying they didn’t agree to the process.
13. Enjoy the ride! Reap the benefits of having one, two, or a few problems solved so you can move on to fresh new territory.
We hope these tips help you be more successful in your next problem-solving, product-developing, innovating or creating project.
Megann and Steve