What is Ideation?
Ideation is the formation of concepts or ideas, and is the fuel of innovation. The benefits of ideation are vast and significant, ranging from faster, more agile problem-solving, to creating a sense of cohesion across your team. Making ideation a priority boosts your productivity, inspires and motivates your employees, and helps you to gain a clearer vision of where your business should be heading.
Most people assume that their workplace is a naturally safe space for practicing ideation, particularly if they are building a disruptive product, or providing an expert service, but this often isn’t the case. It’s far too easy for negative feedback and imbalanced leadership hierarchies to dictate who can and can’t feel comfortable sharing their ideas, meaning that your team might only be trying to problem solve when they’re pressed.
Businesses that want to innovate make sure that ideation isn’t an activity that is confined to the occasional brainstorming session, but is something that is welcomed whenever it occurs. Providing a simple, accessible space for collecting and responding to ideas, alongside a culture that supports and welcomes this, is the first step. However, you can still do more to turn ideation into a workplace habit.
1. Broadcast your Challenges
It can feel uncomfortable to open up about the challenges facing your business, but it’s vital if you want to make the most of the panoramic perspective that only your entire team can provide.
Make time in your week, either during a full company meeting, or in an email, to share what you’re working on. If you use a idea management software, you can achieve this simply and easily by posting a challenge, or shouting out a success via bulletin, in only a few clicks. Openly and actively invite ideas for both big and small projects, and treat your team as a trusted council. You might be surprised at who steps up to go above and beyond.
To support this, you also need to encourage team members at every level to ask for help, and make it clear that no one is ever obliged to solve a problem on their own. Although one person may have the seed of a great idea, it often takes a collaborative process to test and shape it into its most effective form.
At the very least, broadcasting your challenges might lead to new perspective or interesting point of challenge that advances your own thinking. At best, you never know who has the exact solution you’ve been looking for.
2. Integrate Ideation into your Internal Comms
If you’re like most businesses, you’re probably sending out tens, or even hundreds, of internal emails every week. Look for places within these that you can introduce and expand on the concept of ideation within this correspondence.
Is there an opportunity to communicate an ‘Idea of the Week’, to shout out someone who has gone above and beyond in tackling a specific challenge? How about sharing news articles that relate to innovation, even taken from outside of your field?
Think of creative ways to make innovation part of the wider discussion, so everyone knows that it’s something to be excited about.
3. Celebrate Successes and Failures
It’s easy and fun to celebrate when people have succeeded, though you should still make a conscious effort to ensure you do this regularly! It’s much more difficult to call out failure. It’s not about naming and shaming, but rather leading the way by being open and honest about your own limitations, experiments, and mistakes. By sharing these, you can transform them into new goals, lessons and insights to propel your business forward.
Many successful start ups live my the mantra ‘fail fast and often’, because they understand that failure is an important stage of any iterative learning process. If you reframe failure as one more step on the journey to success, you’ll find that it stops being a block, or something to be afraid of, and starts to become a charge to find another – often more interesting or fruitful – route to success.