Unleash Wild and Wacky to Get Bigger Ideas

by Richard Haasnoot

This is another in a series of articles about how you can consistently generate at least 12 X more ideas than brainstorming. At Innovate2Grow Experts we call this process Quantum Idea Generation. In previous articles, I’ve shared the first three of four critical elements of this process.

In this article, I address the fourth critical element – eliminate fear, have fun, and you unleash wild and wacky ideas that very often become the biggest ideas with the highest chances for long-term success.

As you plan for an important innovation idea generating meeting, make sure you plan to eliminate fear and replace it with fun so that you can bring out the highest level of creativity from the people in your idea generating session. This article covers important “must haves” in planning idea generating exercises so that you have fun, not fear in the session.

Here is why eliminating fear is so important.

First, I want to define what I mean by having fear in an idea generating session. Some people fear sharing ideas that will make them look foolish or, even worse, not very smart. Other people fear sharing ideas because they might be judged, criticized, and even ridiculed by other people. These kinds of fear can exist with peers in the creative session but can become a serious potential issue when there are managers and senior leaders are in a creative session. The additional fear of harming career chances is very real in these kinds of sessions if it is not strongly and directly addressed. Whenever any of this exists to any degree, you have a potentially serious problem.

When fear exists, you find people sitting back and not participating. The result is a dramatic reduction in creative output from the session. As a result, I think you can see why eliminating fear is one of the four major factors in effective Quantum Idea Generation.

Here is how we eliminate fear from an idea generating session. First, you need to address it head on. When I am leading a session, I share the following story to establish why letting go of fear is so critically important to our success.

Over the years when I have seen a very big idea come out of the session, I go to the small group of people that first generated the idea. I ask them how they created the idea. The number one response I get over many years of doing this goes something like this. “Well first Sue blurted out this wild and wacky idea. Then John built on the idea. Rebecca loved the build and added her own new dimension. And then Ed connected all the dots and all of a sudden we had this big, exciting idea.”

The lesson of the story is that without wild and wacky ideas we are unlikely to get the really big ideas we need.

If Sue had felt any fear, she would not have blurted out the wild and wacky idea that led to the big idea. As a result, I encourage people to blurt out wild and wacky ideas. Because these are so important, I prohibit verbal and nonverbal judging and criticizing of ideas during the idea generating process. Typically, at the end of a session we ask people to vote on their favorite ideas, which is the only time judging is allowed.

The second thing I do to eliminate fear is to have a one-on-one chat with all of the more senior managers in the session. I request their help. I ask them to never judge ideas during the creative session.  I asked them to be especially sensitive to any nonverbal forms of judging, like rolling their eyes, shaking their head, or giving someone a judgmental look.

I underscore to them how their managerial power can either stifle creativity or be a major encouragement to creativity. In almost all cases this one-on-one request works well. Senior leaders want maximum creativity and I am showing them the way to help with this.

Now that we have eliminated fear, this is how we inject fun.

The facilitator of an idea generating session plays a very critical role in creating fun. One of the most important ways of doing this is to be closely in touch with the small groups of people as they create ideas. As groups are generating ideas, I observe and when I see anything approaching a promising idea, I inject strong positive encouragement. When the groups then share their ideas with the total session, I am also on the lookout for every opportunity to complement and praise people for their ideas.

In addition, I have a number of stimulus presentations intended to inspire people to reach for even bigger ideas. I often do this with some rather humorous presentations. I’m looking to generate smiles and laughs as I inspire people to reach for even bigger ideas.

The goal of all of this is to create an environment where people can have fun and play with big possibilities.

A sense of play and even a sense of humor are indications that a creative group is optimizing their creativity. As a facilitator, it is very important to stay in touch with the quality of energy in the room. A facilitator with a very high level of emotional intelligence (EQ) goes a long way to helping a group optimize its creative results.

You can learn more by listening to the early episodes of the Innovation Best Practices podcast – now with listeners in over 104 countries.

image credit: aliexpress.com

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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 successful entrepreneur in the innovation and creativity business. He’s a regular podcaster. Check out i2ge.com and bluesagecreative.com. Follow him @Innovate2Grow

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