How to Use Diversity to Get Really Big Ideas

by Richard Haasnoot

 How to Use Diversity to Get Really Big Ideas - Innovation ExcellenceIn a recent article, I provided an overview of Quantum Idea Generation, an idea generating process that consistently delivers at least 12 X more ideas than brainstorming.

This process was pioneered by Doug Hall who developed version 1.0 and my team took it to an entirely new level with version 2.0. Doug’s version 1.0 was tested twice at Oklahoma State University which confirmed the 12 X more ideas than brainstorming.

In this article, I zero in on one of the four elements of Quantum Idea Generation – diversity (the other three are stimulus, left/right brain, and fun no fear, which will be addressed in future articles).

Diversity plays a critical role in the success of a Quantum Idea Generation session. If you only have people who see an innovation need through the same lens of skills and experiences, you will get solutions to your need that have a very narrow range even though they may go deep within that range. Diversity always introduces a broader set of skills, experiences, and perspectives. This breadth always produces many more high-quality ideas with greater chances for success.

The basis for this is very simple. The very best thinking of one person will always get better with the very best thinking of another person and another person……..

Quantum Idea Generation is a process used in a group creative session. Regarding diversity of people in a session, there are three basic types – internal expertise, external expertise, and creative idea generation expertise. Diverse internal expertise means you involve people with different functional expertise that is relevant to the creative session’s purpose. Diverse external expertise brings into the creative session high quality external experts who have skills and knowledge that are relevant to the session’s purpose but that does not duplicate the internal expertise. The creative idea generation expertise includes people in the session were very adept in certain creative skills like integration, synthesis, idea building, plus broad and diverse general business experience.

Not all three types of diverse expertise are needed for every Quantum Idea Generation session.  If you have an evolutionary innovation need, like the next product improvement, then high-quality internal diversity may be all that you need. If you have a more challenging evolutionary innovation need like a product extension, you definitely need the internal expertise and it could be helpful, depending upon the level of challenge, to bring in external diverse expertise. If you have a more revolutionary innovation need, like delivery of a new benefit/benefits and possibly a new form, then you’ll definitely want all three types of diversity in your creative session.

A quick example might help. I led a project with a major international food company with very robust R&D capabilities. Previous to hiring us, they had hired two other innovation consulting companies to solve their problem – both companies failed. In preparation for the Quantum Idea Generation creative session, we hand-picked the internal diverse group of experts. We wanted all of the needed functional expertise plus people from those functions who deeply cared about developing the solutions. We then found truly world-class relevant expertise that did not duplicate the client’s internal expertise. We found cutting-edge scientists at Cornell, Penn State, and Ohio State who had conducted extensive and yet to be published research directly in and around the solution the client needed. We then added extensive creative expertise from our team.

We had planned a two day Quantum Idea Generation creative session that included this very diverse group of experts. By noon of the first day we had multiple solutions – confirmed by the client. This would not have been possible without having exceptional diverse expertise working in a very powerful creative and collaborative process. This process enabled the rapid exchange of best practices and new learnings. This led to combining the best expertise  from multiple perspectives to develop the breakthrough solutions.

If you would like to learn more, you can listen to episodes 1-6  of the Innovation Best Practices podcast– where episode 4 focuses on diversity. You can also read my book– Proven Practical Innovation That Delivers Results— available only at Amazon in paperback and as a Kindle book. If you would like to contact me directly – –

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Richard has spent most of his career in and around innovation – senior leader at Procter & Gamble and Gallo, professor at Arizona State University, author of six books, and a very successful entrepreneur in the innovation and creativity business. He’s a regular podcaster. Check out and Follow him @Innovate2Grow

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