How to Create Brilliant Ideas with Impact
The other day, someone from the marketing department of a large retailer was telling me the story of how they had this amazing idea to improve the shopper experience at several retail locations. I won’t go into the details, but it was a pretty far-out idea. Using the latest technology to understand shopper behavior, it could significantly ease the life of shoppers, thus creating a better shopping experience. The team that came up with the idea did everything right, did their empathy research and got a lot of different people in the room to generate more than 700 different ideas in just two days. They ended up with an amazing concept to deliver an exciting shopping experience.
The concept required in-store sales representatives to use it effectively, but when the team shared the concept, not everyone was enthusiastic. One person fundamentally disagreed with the approach, even though the team had data from the research to back up their idea.
The thing is, it wasn’t his idea, but it would influence his way of working, which to him was trespassing on his turf. He suffered from rejection bias: not my idea, thus not a good idea—something we see a lot of in business.
Regardless, the team took the concept to the board of directors, expecting them to push it through for implementation. The board recognized the idea was great, innovative and exciting, but didn’t think it was feasible. Because the board was in evaluation, not creative mode, they shot down the idea instead of thinking how they could implement it with some minor tweaks.
There’s more than just creative collaboration; there’s vertical collaboration among stakeholders, too. You want stakeholders to be in ideation mode when they are looking at an idea, not evaluation mode. That’s why you need to include stakeholders in your ideation sessions. Get them to create the ideas together with you. Not only does this create a sense of ownership, it also ensures that you can still suggest crazy ideas, while they think about the feasibility or practical implications for the business.
Whenever we do ideation sessions at Mirum, we include a range of stakeholders, from the sales promotion staff to the CEO, from government officials to school teachers (when possible), all in one room creating ideas to help solve the problem. This ensures buy-in across the organization.
You might think this is a lot of theory I’m proposing, but there are companies who actually apply this thinking on a daily basis as part of Design Thinking—startups like Airbnb, Uber and Go-JEK; Development organizations like The United Nations and UNICEF; and established giants such as BMW, Amazon, Apple and Google.
Yes, the world today is a “scary” place for us marketing and technology folks because of the many expectations that people put on us to come up with radically innovative ideas. Fortunately, there’s a way we can increase our chances of success. But it’s not easy. Much like driving a car, you’ll have to learn it step-by-step, and consciously think about how you can improve your process. After a while, you’ll feel like you’ve never done it any other way.