Preston Smith's Corner

How can we come up with more/better new-product ideas?

April 2004 Quick Tip

Creativity is a highly admired trait. Most organizations wish they had more or higher-quality ideas for truly new products. Although you can learn and manage creativity, few managers are willing to invest what it takes to raise their level of creativity.

Unfortunately, there are many obstacles to creativity in today’s workplace. The biggest is perhaps simply the time available to create. High-quality ideas take time to ferment; the best ones are seldom the first that come to mind, and pushing beyond the initial outflow is not natural.

Motivation for high-quality ideas must be intrinsic. Paying bonuses for ideas fosters me-too excursions, not risky, breakthrough concepts.

The performance and metrics orientation of “best-in-class” companies encourages sticking to one’s knitting rather than venturing into the unmeasured. I have seen several small, entrepreneurial organizations acquired by larger command-and-control organizations that then squelched the very creativity they purchased.

Luckily, you can overcome most of these obstacles with attention once you recognize them, and there are ways to stimulate organizational creativity. See our review of the book, Creativity, Inc for details.

If you plan to apply your creativity to new-product ideas, keep one other point in mind. Most organizations already have more new-product ideas than they can squeeze through their funnel. If you stimulate creativity without making other changes, this problem will become worse. You want higher-quality ideas, not more ideas. Along with enhanced ideation, develop more efficient front-end filtering mechanisms so that you can eliminate the weaker ideas earlier and faster.

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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