When it comes to new, innovative ideas, instead of thinking outside the box, check what's in the box already…
In a blog for the Harvard Business Review, David Burkus suggests that innovative ideas already exists in an organisation, but may never see the light of day; "Innovation isn't hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing the good ideas already there."
Business is littered with the corpses of great ideas not recognised by the creators, and capitalised on by other companies; Steve Jobs of Apple first saw a computer mouse and GUI interface at Xerox, for example. Burkus points to a study that suggests that this may be due to "A bias against new and creative ideas when we're faced with even small amounts of uncertainty." So, it could be an attitude that hampers ideas and creativity in times of change, rather than a genuine shortage of ideas.
Burkus suggest a solution to this attitude would be a more open and transparent approach to idea management. "Instead of using the traditional hierarchy to find and approve ideas, the approval process could be spread across the whole organization."
This solution misses a fundamental point; it's both the finding and approval processes that should be organisation-wide. Only by opening up innovation to your employees, your management and (potentially) your customers and stakeholders will businesses uncover good ideas right under their noses, often not in the places they expected to find them.
The wisdom of the crowd can then be brought to bear on the rating, analysis and development of these newly-discovered ideas. For that process to work, an organisation needs to have a consistent understanding and proactive approach to innovation that first encourages ideas, then builds support and awareness of them.
All this will be for nothing if the best ideas are not converted into actions that have a positive impact on the business, and preferably on the bottom line too. Success breeds success, encouraging more new ideas, more feedback, more interaction.
And your next success might be in the box already.
David Burkus, Harvard Business Review