It’s Highly Possible that You’ve Already Had Your Next Best Idea

Most of us attach the word “audit” to “IRS” and the word association isn’t pleasant.

The general definition of an audit is an evaluation of a person, organization, system, process, enterprise, project or product.

The term most commonly refers to audits in accounting, internal auditing, and government auditing, but similar concepts also exist in project management, quality management, water management, and energy conservation. (from Wikipedia)

Debra Kaye, writing in Red Thread Thinking, wants to give new meaning to the word audit by attaching it to your ideas instead of your tax returns.

There’s plenty of information, products, materials, and technology that can be looked at in a fresh way, modified somehow, and used again.

We’ve all experienced deja vu – looking at an unfamiliar situation and feeling – almost knowing – that you’ve seen it before.

It’s time to flip that phrase.

William Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company magazine and author of Practically Radical, writes that it’s time for the best leaders to demonstrate a capacity for vuja de’. It’s looking at a familiar situation (say, being a leader in ChurchWorld for decades, or designing and delivering a weekly worship experience for years) as if you’ve never seen it before, and with that fresh line of sight, developing a distinctive point of view on the future.

You can’t do big things anymore if you are content with doing things a little better than everyone else, or a little differently from how you’ve done them in the past.

It’s time to look at your organization and your calling as if you are seeing them for the first time.

We all have ideas that never went anywhere. It’s time to unearth old notes from previous development projects. Are there innovations or ventures that you started to work on and then abandoned for some reason?

It’s time for an “idea audit” to see what’s in the back of your hard drive, filing cabinet or closet. When you reassess what’s already there you can uncover what’s worth revisiting.

What should you be looking for in an idea audit? Most organizations and innovators have or can find hidden assets in their past ideas and efforts, including:

  • Existing old technologies that have accessible benefits that can be enhanced and revealed to new constituents
  • Underleveraged technologies or products that could be valued in categories that were not previously considered or by new or niche groups of consumers
  • Unreleased products or too quickly discarded product concepts that could be potential winners, but that went astray because the going-in insight or platform wasn’t properly tweaked
  • Undervalued distribution networks that can be reawakened with partners who want to be where you are
  • Consumer perceptions and sluggish brand equity that can be refreshed to awaken new revenue

In short, open your eyes fresh and look anew.

Look at your resources – every false start, tool, prototype, note, gadget, materials, formula, recipe, or report available – from a different perspective.

Maybe it’s even time for a little Vuja De’.

Most artists look for something fresh to paint; frankly I find that quite boring. For me it is much more exciting to find fresh meaning in something familiar. – Andrew Wyeth

 

inspired by:

 Red Thread Thinking, by Debra Kaye with Karen Kelly

Practically Radical, by William C. Taylor

 

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They Made It – We Borrow It

There is no such thing as a truly original idea. – David Kord Murray

Great thinkers throughout history have understood this and used it to their advantage.

courtesy ledenergy.ca

courtesy ledenergy.ca

Connecting to and building on other people’s ideas and insights can compensate you better than the exclusivity of building something from scratch. Why try to come up with an original idea when someone else has already done the hard work for you? All great innovators cast a wide net to incite creative thought by looking beyond their category and into analogous organizations around the world.

Good ideas are everywhere, but only you can make them relevant to your world.

Debra Kaye, author of Red Thread Thinking, calls this process World Mining. She encourages us to mine deeply to:

  • Seek external inspiration internationally from other companies’ successes, from outside experts, and from creative consumers
  • Identify valued benefits delivered by analogous categories that speak to potential brand promises, brand characteristics, or product experience
  • Review innovative products that are changing competitive landscapes in other categories
  • Assess new technology as a basis for interest

David Kord Murray espouses a similar train of thought in his book Borrowing Brilliance. It will challenge you as it examines the evolution of a creative idea. It also offers practical advice, taking the reader step-by-step through Murray’s unique thought process. Here are the six steps:

  • Defining – define the problem you’re trying to solve
  • Borrowing – Borrow ideas from places with a similar problem
  • Combining – Connect and combine these borrowed ideas
  • Incubating – Allow the combinations to incubate into a solution
  • Judging – Identify the strength and weakness of the solution
  • Enhancing – Eliminate the weak points while enhancing the strong ones

Read a quick summary of the six steps here. You can also get more information here.

Any pool of ideas or existing assets, no matter how divergent from your own organization, can unlock new and even revolutionary areas of discovery and innovation.

The key to finding and borrowing rich resources is becoming attuned to the environment and seeing beyond what’s in front of you, whether you’re just an engaged consumer or looking at other cultures.

Set yourself on the lookout for threads and connections when you observe your surroundings, ask yourself questions, and free your mind.

Somebody probably made it first – it’s up to you to make it better.

inspired by 

Red Thread Thinking, by Debra Kay with Karen Kelly

Borrowing Brilliance, by David Kord Murray

Red Thread ThinkingBorrowing Brilliance

Too Much Brainstorming Will Only Leave You All Wet

The conventional wisdom that innovation can be institutionalized or done in a formal group is simply wrong. – Debra Kaye, Red Thread Thinking

According to author Debra Kaye in Red Thread Thinking, recent studies of the brain make it clear why the best new ideas don’t emerge from formal brainstorming.

The brain doesn’t make connections in a rigid atmosphere – there’s too much pressure and too much influence from others in the group. The “free association” most often given as a benefit of brainstorming is often shackled by peer pressure, delivering obvious, predictable responses.

What’s the answer? Try getting away from it all.

Fresh ideas come when your brain is relaxed and engaged in something other than the particular problem you are embroiled in. To harness strategic intuition, you have to leave the subject and the facts and stop thinking so hard about them.

Maybe you should waste a little time…

Here are 7 ways to use the power of wasting time to jump-start your thinking:

  • Meditation – meditation increases your power of concentration and allows your mind to become free enough to let ideas flow
  • Sleep on it – sometimes, you just need to put your project aside overnight. When the pressure is off, it’s amazing what possibilities develop
  • Sleep tight – research has shown that when you learn something and then sleep on it, your knowledge of what you’ve learned becomes deeper
  • Exercise – getting on a bike, taking a walk, lifting weights – some form of exercise – is good not only for your gut, but for your gut instinct, too
  • Act metaphorically – researchers wondered if acting out the ideas in common metaphors like “thinking outside the box” and “putting two and two together” would make people more creative. They were right – so consider getting out of your box (office) to free up your mind?
  • Read about how smart you are – nerve cells in our brains make stronger connections after we learn something new. Think and learn about your capacity to be smarter – and you just may be
  • “Me” time – spending time engaged in activities you really like enhances innovative thinking

The literal presence of mind that comes when you clear your brain of all expectations is what usually precedes a flash of insight. That flash gives you the power to come up with and act on an idea.

Go ahead – take a walk…

courtesy manhattanportage.com

courtesy manhattanportage.com

…your boss can thank you later!

 

inspired by Red Thread Thinking, by Debra Kaye

Red Thread Thinking

Stop Crying Over Spilt Milk – the Glass is Still Half Full

In addition to being a knowledge addict, I am a horizontal organizer.

This often manifests itself in a cluttered (to some) office, but in actuality it is creative genius in process…

…the problem is, the process almost never finishes.

Or, as someone once said, I would be a procrastinator if I could ever get around to it.

Which leads to “my” garage (in all honesty, my wife will not let me say “our” garage –it’s all on me).

I served for over 23 years on 3 different church staffs. During that time, I accumulated, created, and mostly saved a lot of resources including books, notebooks, workbooks, lesson plans, sermon notes, leadership training materials, etc.

Upon leaving the church staff vocation and becoming a church consultant over 9 years ago, all those resources came home to reside in our garage. They were stored in cataloged (for the most part) boxes – over 40 of them, in case you were wondering.

From time to time, I would venture out into the garage to search for a resource that would help with a consulting project. Over time, those trips became less frequent, and the resources just sat there.

For some reason, at this time and season in my life, I have begun a summer project to reduce a vast amount of the stuff in my garage, with an eventual goal of putting the family car in at night (I’ve read somewhere that’s what garages are for, but I have no actual working knowledge of that in 33+ years of marriage).

A portable storage unit sits in the driveway, and it has become my sorting/storing/waypoint for stuff on the way out of the garage to a final destination – the recycling center, Goodwill, anyone interested in church-type books, or as a last resort, the dump.

Pause that train of thought for a minute; I want to hook up another car and redirect you.

One of the new books I’m reading this week is Red Thread Thinking. As a part of my typical reading regimen, I look at the front and back covers, table of contents, and introduction before I dive into the book. Reading this book’s TOC, I came across a chapter title that stopped me in my tracks:

Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk Because the Glass is Still Half Full.

photo courtesy ecoblog.co.za

photo courtesy ecoblog.co.za

Going straight to the chapter, the first three sentences had me hooked:

Your last failure may be part of your next success. The fastest, most profitable innovation opportunities could be right in front of you, yet unnoticed. Uncovering your hidden assets unlocks new opportunities because virtually all innovations are linked to other inventions, successful or not. 

On the next page, this:

Seeing new value in old resources just requires a little skill and motivation to gather knowledge from diverse sources, then figure out how it might be put to new uses.

And finally:

It’s time to unearth old notes from previous development projects. Are there innovations or ventures that you started to work on and then abandoned for some reason? Do an “idea audit” and see what’s in the back of your filing cabinet or closet [or garage]. It’s time to reassess – and see what you can uncover that’s worth revisiting.

Brilliant.

My summer cleaning project just took on new meaning.

inspired by Red Thread Thinking by Debra Kaye, with Karen Kelly

Red Thread Thinking