A 3-step guide to create innovative and breakthrough ideas

In today’s economy, the ability to quickly think about and share new and fresh ideas is becoming more and more strategic, both for people and organizations. But as research led by Wharton’s Jennifer Mueller and recently reported by Harvard Business Review blog suggests, many people tend to have some bias against really innovative thoughts.

Mueller’s team found that people often claim to want new and creative ideas, but when presented with those ideas in an uncertain environment and asked to evaluate them, the more novel ideas often get a lesser rating. Further research also showed that managers and senior leaders especially tend to reject the very ideas customers want.

In order to solve this criticality, Adobe Systems has recently launched the Adobe Kickbox, a new program to spur innovation from within the organization.

The top of the box features a clever fire alarm image with the words “Pull in Case of Idea” written on it. When you break open the seal, you’ll find instruction cards, a pen, two Post-It note pads, two notebooks, a Starbucks gift card, a bar of chocolate and (mostly importantly) a $1,000 prepaid credit card. The card can be used on anything the employee would like or need without ever having to justify it or fill out an expense report.

But in addition to tools, how to successfully keep on thinking about and trying to implement breakthrough ideas?

3 effective tips to become a Top Innovator

#1 Welcome the unfamiliar

Try to break your habits, which make you comfortable while limiting  your horizons. As suggested by Kaihan Krippendorff on Inc.com:

Most of us do our best work when we’re someplace familiar, using tools we know well.

In this case, however, a major reason you’re in a rut (and thus need a breakthrough) is that your brain associates your surroundings with all the stuff you’ve done and the thoughts you’ve had in the past.

#2 Remix the problem

Changing the question often becomes really important to approach the problem from another perspective. Here’s an example from the robots industry:

Gentile was once asked by some researchers to help them figure out how they might commercialize robots they had been working on. When Gentile stepped into their lab, they eagerly walked him over to their robots that were swinging their arms in their best effort to mimic human movement. But Gentile got distracted by some computer screens across the room where he saw stick-figure depictions of the robots moving seamlessly. He asked, “What are those?” and learned that the researchers had developed software to read and depict their movement. Gentile’s eyes gleamed and he said, “Forget the robots!” He had changed the question from “How can we commercialize robots?” to “How can we commercialize the software?” The idea led to a new form of more realistic animation for video games and movies.

#3 Re-use your knowledge and leverage your best skills

Sometimes, invent “simply” means repurpose the old. Companies and innovative projects tend to grow by leveraging assets they have built in old businesses to create new businesses.

* David Burkus, Inside Adobe’s Innovation Kit, hbr.org
** Kaihan Krippendorff, 4 Steps for Breakthrough Ideas, fastcompany.com
*** Geoffrey James, How to Come Up With a Breakthrough Idea, inc.com

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