By Ted Curtin,
Last month I had the honor of delivering the keynote address at the People of Play toy industry conference in Chicago, where I spoke about the challenges of internal innovation. Since Innovation has become an issue of growing importance and concern, the talk generated a lot of interest and discussion.
A number of managers and industry executives expressed both frustration and puzzlement by the quality and pace of innovation developed in-house. Despite their best efforts, their initiatives don’t seem to be delivering.
To be fair, coming up with genuinely new and relevant ideas has never been easy, even in the best of situations. But the current structures and conventions around internal innovation make it especially problematic today.
Internal Brainstorming Can Only Get You So Far
Many people I spoke with after the talk, questioned the value of internal “brainstorming” sessions. As one attendee put it: “If we have to sit in another poorly lit, windowless room, placing Post-It notes on the walls, I’ll go nuts.” (There may have been an expletive that I’ve left out!)
The problem isn’t that those partaking in internal brainstorms aren’t smart. To the contrary: many told me that they have a highly intelligent and motivated teams. But even with these stellar performers, the magic isn’t happening.
Organizations Have Built-In Constraints
The root of the problem, as we see it at ProdigyWorks, are the constraints built into corporate culture itself.
One is “legacy thinking.” No matter how encouraged people are to think outside the box, or imagine that they’re doing so, institutional bias and long-established modes of thinking have an inertial power that’s hard to overcome. What often results are minor tweaks on deeply-embedded mental tropes, rather than major innovative leaps.
Add to that the social pressures. Genuine creative thinking demands that, at least at certain stages of the process, one is able to say just about anything, no matter how silly, outrageous or pointless.
But corporations are all about acting rationally. And we’re rewarded for being “smart,” “buttoned-up” and “professional.” To suddenly shift from tidy linear thinking to the messy, rollicking world-of-creative thinking is just too much of a leap.
Then there’s the question of time. In so many cases internal innovation is just one of the responsibilities placed upon a busy, and even overworked staff. Brainstorming sessions are shoehorned into packed schedules. People just don’t have the bandwidth to offer the focused and intense effort, often lasting days or weeks, that breakthrough innovation requires.
And, finally, not everyone is temperamentally fit for the kind of thinking needed for, let’s say, new product development. Even the smartest.
There is, indeed, a correlation between IQ and creativity. But other elements need to be added to the mix for innovation to flourish. Call it open-mindedness, a passion for ideas, playfulness, and the will to keep on going when it appears nothing is really happening.
With all of these obstacles facing internal innovation, it’s obvious that a solution is to take your innovation outside your company. At least temporarily.
And that’s exactly what we do.
Welcome To The Great Outdoors
To help solve your most pressing innovation challenges, ProdigyWorks enables you to reach outside of your organization to tap into the brainpower of the world’s most original and creative minds: Mensa high-IQ thinkers, creative geniuses, inventors, artists, and seasoned industry experts.
From our global network, we carefully select the perfect panel for you project. We then immerse these “Prodigies” into your category, your products and your unique challenge. Free from organizational constraints and institutional bias, they deliver unexpected insights and solutions that are both transformative and meaningful. Better yet, they deliver it fast.
And after they’ve come up with hundreds of new ideas and unique opportunities, we work with you to cull and refine the best ideas the Prodigies have come up with.
We’re proud of our remarkably successful track record; helping some of the world’s greatest companies and best-loved brands achieve long-lasting in-market successes.
And remember: if you feel your innovation could use a boost, one of the smartest things you can do is simply step outside.