How New Ideas Emerge From Chaos

einstein-blackboard.jpgThere’s an interesting contrast between “The Problem With Brainstorming” at Wired, and “Here’s an Idea: Let Everyone Have Ideas” at the New York Times.

The Problem with Brainstorming starts out with some history of brainstorming, and then moves to its soft underbelly: The tendency of groupthink to emerge from groups:

Thinking in teams, and pitching other people’s ideas rather than my own, I quickly found my freshest thoughts blending into a kind of generalized banality, a dollar-green cookie dough. Quantity there was, but the lack of a personal moral framework and the impossibility of being negative took quality off the agenda.

In sharp contrast, Let Everyone Have Ideas starts out:

[T]hey focus on an internal market where any employee can propose that the company acquire a new technology, enter a new business or make an efficiency improvement. These proposals become stocks, complete with ticker symbols, discussion lists and e-mail alerts. Employees buy or sell the stocks, and prices change to reflect the sentiments of the company’s engineers, computer scientists and project managers — as well as its marketers, accountants and even the receptionist.

The question of how to go from a stream of ideas to selecting and executing on the right ideas is a fascinating one. Serving your existing customers, by focusing on compatibility issues and gradual improvement, prevents you from making some leaps that a company with a smaller customer base can make. This is one of the reasons startups can bring new things to market quickly. (Clayton Christensen talks about this in The Innovator’s Dilemma.)

Let Everyone Have Ideas focuses not only on how to select ideas, but a way to execute on them, which is to turn effort and evangelism into shares on that internal market, so that if ideas pay off, when they do, those who backed them can get an ROI. Fascinating.

(Einstein blackboard from Hetemeel’s Dynamic Images page.)

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