It’s been eight years since Business Week branded the cover of its 75th Anniversary edition with the words “The Innovation Economy.” Since then markets have changed and bubbles have burst, but the message of that cover continues to hold true—we operate in an Innovation Economy powered by ideas. Today, competitiveness is determined by a business’ commitment to innovation.
When you consider value creation for business today, Intellectual Property (IP) accounts for a meaningful part of it, but that invention or discovery as part of an innovative solution is what sets you apart from your competitors and is where significant brand and stakeholder wealth is created.
In 1984, Apple encouraged the world to “Think Different.” Following his own advice, Steve Jobs’ success came heavily from his ability to move beyond invention into the realm of innovation. We all have the potential to be innovators. Some people are naturally creative thinkers, but you can train the brain to think in other ways. In my experience, I have found that many companies challenge their organization with thinking outside of the box during brainstorming sessions, and consequently fail to think of the box. Remember childhood forts made out of cardboard boxes? Cardboard race cars? Cardboard robots? The concept is still relevant! By changing the way we focus, we can “un-train” the brain and see things from a new, innovative point of view. All it takes is little perspective. Creative guru, Michael Michalko, for example, has published several exercises intended to change the way the mind interprets information, allowing for new connections, ideas, and solutions to be made. Click here to try it out.
Another technique known as “Mind-mapping” has become one of my preferred ways of enhancing creative brainstorming. Developed by Tony Buzan, Mind Maps break large topics into manageable chunks of information, enabling the note-taker to visually see how the pieces fit together. For a full explanation of the Mind Map Methodology and its role in idea generation, click here.
At our recent Ocean Tomo all-firm meeting, I facilitated a session on innovation and creativity and asked the full spectrum of my co-workers—from interns to the Managing Directors—to create Mind Maps focused on discovering potential “white-space” in the IP innovative ecosystem and opportunities for the firm to fill the gaps. It was interesting to see the number of “needle-moving” ideas that were generated. These ideas are being factored into a thought process owned by the firms leadership team to drive the direction of the company around offering new services that will help us better serve our clients’ current and future needs.
I encourage all of you who have taken the time to read these short comments to rethink the ways in which you approach creativity—expand your mind, follow your intuition, open yourself up to moments of inspiration, and don’t be afraid of curiosity and the unconventional. Who knows--- one of you might be able to “build a better box.”