Custom IT Research? Brainstorm!

Custom IT Research takes creativity.

The December 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review offered some good advice about reclaiming your creative confidence. If you have an online HBR subscription, you can read the article here. Tom and David Kelley, the authors of “Reclaim Your Creative Confidence”, are prime movers at IDEO,  a design and innovation consultancy. They are also professors at U.C. Berkeley and Stanford, respectively.  They know their creativity stuff cold.

What stifles creativity?

The Kelley thesis on creativity is that we are all born creative, but fear keeps our creativity in check. They call out four fears, as follows.

  • Fear of the messy unknown
  • Fear of being judged
  • Fear of the first step
  • Fear of losing control

I’ll paraphrase the author’s thinking about the first two of these fears in this post and discuss the others in the future.

 The Messy Unknown

When you step outside of your comfortable world and begin to ask your customers, employees, and business partners what they really think and want, you may learn some unpleasant and disturbing truths. Perhaps your product, service, or pricing are not all they should be. Of course, you won’t be able to adapt, innovate, or improve without having a frank look at what others are thinking.

One article interviewee mentioned the awkwardness of approaching strangers for their opinions about his evolving IPad app. However, the criticism paid dividends as the app evolved from “This is crap” to “Is this app pre-loaded on every IPad?” Today, that app is huge.

Another interviewee spoke about how hard it had been to tear his executive team away from the office to interact directly with customers in the field. But getting out in the field sparked clear insight into what the customers really wanted. Today, getting out in the field is business as usual.

In both these cases, avoiding the messy unknown would have meant avoiding success.

The Judgement of Others

The authors suggest that we all stifle creative ideas due to the fear of ridicule by bosses and peers. No one wants to fail abjectly in full view of his or her community of interest. Of course, when nothing is ventured, nothing is gained. Overcoming the appeal of safe but non-inventive solutions and brainstorming in earnest, starts the magic happening.

A sound idea offered is to take a systematic approach to capturing your brainstorm output in an “idea notebook”. You preserve your ideas while avoiding the tendency to self-censor with “that will never work”  thinking.

One IDEO airline client’s executive team brainstormed collectively and then prototyped to innovate a new sleeper-couch for long distance air travel. The couch won several industry awards, and the hearts and minds of the airline’s passengers.

Without the courage to brainstorm, you will not enjoy breakthroughs.

The Bottom Line

Stepping into the messy unknown and brainstorming with abandon are two important innovation ideas. You may find it easier to take these actions with our help. We do the research that asks the hard questions on your behalf. You’ll get the insights you need while staying out of the mess.

You may prefer to brainstorm with us, before turning your creative lights on your peers. We don’t judge you, but we do help you evaluate your ideas and pick the likely winners. We can interview potential clients and business partners to determine their reaction to new concepts. For those that pass muster, we can build prototypes quickly in a skunk-works environment. You’ll enjoy fear-free brainstorming, and your business will like the results.

Contact us, and let’s get started!

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