How do you transform an opportunity into an idea? Well, the first thing is to get comfortable with the belief that any old ideas won’t do. What we’re interested in are disruptive ideas; that is, ideas with the power for great impact and influence. Ideas that challenge assumed boundaries and inspire a sense of what’s possible. In my experience, however, most ideas never get anywhere near this level.
1: Feeling overwhelmed, directionless, and without focus
The problem is that traditional brainstorming has ignored the huge difference between generating lots of ideas and capturing quality ideas. As a result, brainstorming sessions often leave organizations and teams feeling overwhelmed and directionless—a state Beth Comstock at GE insightfully calls, “paralyzed by possibility.” Simply put, if your ideas are going to have any disruptive impact, you need to move beyond a shotgun approach to brainstorming and start pursuing creative effort with a laser-sharp focus.
2: Thinking in terms of isolated products, services, and information
Gizmo-ized is another way of saying that even a product as ancient as a bottle of wine no longer stands alone as a static object; it’s dynamic. “It is offering me more functionality than I will ever be able to explore,” Sterling writes, “This wine bottle aims to educate me—it is luring me to become more knowledgeable about the people and processes that made the bottle and its contents. It wants to recruit me to become an unpaid promotional agent, a wine critic, an opinion maker—it wants me to throw wine-tasting parties and tell all my friends about my purchase.” The relationship between a product, a service, and the information they provide is more important than the details of any one particular feature alone.
3: Getting stuck at the water-cooler
As a result, they rarely escape people’s heads and instead remain there, unformed. The view from inside the company, however, is different. One of the most common phrases I hear from clients is, “We don’t need any more ideas; we have too many.” But, when I ask to see the documented ideas they have, they start back- pedaling: “Well, we don’t have them written down or anything. But, we discuss them a lot.” You can talk about ideas in general terms, at least for a while. But, abstraction makes it harder to understand an idea and remember it. So, to increase the potential, you have to stop talking about it and explain it in sensory terms. Sketch it out!