10 great questions to launch an innovation

It’s tempting to believe that innovation will arrive in the form of a lightning bolt flash of inspiration. And maybe for Ben Franklin it did happen that way. But waiting for the perfect storm is a slow route to change. If storm clouds aren’t gathering on your horizon, try a more sure-fire route to innovation. Ask yourself – and everyone around you – some problem-finding questions.

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Basadur Profile (CPSP) to be featured in the Journal of Applied Behavioural Science

I received exciting news last week. My most recently written research paper has been accepted for publication in the prestigious Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. The paper, co-authored with Tim Basadur and our London colleague Dr. Garry Gelade explains the research and science underlying the development of the Basadur Creative Problem Solving Profile (CPSP) and how the Profile is the fundamental building block directly inter-connected to the circular creative problem solving Process (called Simplexity).

This theoretical work has been underway for a very long, tough time. It is so much easier to experientially understand the Profile and the Process (learning by doing) than by analytical, detached thinking! To try to explain them in words is much more difficult, and nearly impossible, especially to folks for whom the world of creativity is very foreign.

Titled “Creative Problem Solving Process Styles, Cognitive Work Demands and Organizational Adaptability,” the academic paper explains the theoretical underpinnings of the profile, outlines the empirical results of field research and examples of applications, and adds a discussion of implications for innovation, personal and group development and change making. The article is breakthrough, in that the CPSP and creative problem solving as a scientifically rigorous process have finally been understood and accepted at the academic level. This journal is read by academics, Organizational Development practitioners and higher level Human Resource managers seeking new scientifically proven, people-centered technologies they can adopt.

The many people to whom I have taught the CPSP and the Simplexity process over the years have readily understood and applied it successfully. However, for the many experts in the human resources, organizational development, management and creative problem solving fields that I have never been able to reach, the paper should provide a new opportunity to truly understand how the profile can be used to help them hire innovative individuals and build innovative teams and organizations.

Briefly, the Basadur Profile is an instrument that helps individuals identify and understand their unique styles for solving problems. Each unique style indicates preferences for gaining and using knowledge, and reflects the portion of the creative problem solving process that an individual is most inclined toward.

Generators create options in the form of new possibilities or new problems that might be solved as well as by generating new opportunities that might be capitalized on.

Conceptualizers create options in the form of alternate ways to understand and define a problem or opportunity as well as by offering good ideas that help solve it.

Optimizers create options in the form of ways to get an idea to work in practice and by uncovering all of the factors that go into a successful implementation plan.

Implementers create options in the form of actions that get results and gain acceptance for implementing a change or a new idea.

Generators define problems as opportunities and create options by proactively searching for new problems or new opportunities. Conceptualizers seek alternate ways to understand and define a problem or create ideas to help solve it. Optimizers prefer to focus on practical solutions and uncovering all of the factors that go into a successful implementation plan, while Implementers are driven to get results and gain acceptance for a new idea or change.

Of course, most of us are a blend of the above styles. But understanding the roles we prefer when handling problems helps us to think about the actual problem solving process – the steps that we have to go through to take a glimmer of an idea and turn it into a successful program or product.

It also helps us recognize and value the skills others may bring to a team, as we cycle through the complete innovation process of finding good problems to solve, developing good solutions to those problems and implementing the solutions.

I’m thrilled that my research and work continues to contribute to the body of knowledge in the creativity field, and hope it inspires others. I will be sure to let you know when the article is published and how you can access it.

A good idea, but…

How many times have you heard the phrase, “It’s a good idea, but …”?

Invariably, the “but” is followed by a list of reasons why the good idea should be abandoned immediately, in its entirety, without even a moment more of consideration. And frequently, that’s exactly what happens.

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Problem formulation: How might we catch the challenge that brings new opportunity?

Problem solving and innovation would be much easier tasks if problems would only present themselves fully formed and clearly defined. We’d know exactly what we were trying to achieve, and could leap instantly into finding a solution. In the real world however, no one presents us with problems; to keep ahead of the game, we have to go looking for them. And, no matter how we get them, we’re often facing ambiguous situations where the fuzzy outlines of intertwined problems and opportunities float murkily below the surface. We know that we need to act, but we’re not always exactly sure what we’re attempting to accomplish through those actions.

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Building better processes

Some of today’s most perplexing problems involve the need to improve processes. Around the globe, governmental organizations are struggling to make efficient use of scarce tax dollars in an environment of outdated, expensive and overly bureaucratic processes. Non-profit and corporate organizations are typically more nimble and capable of change-making, but are still challenged by the task of improving processes that involve numerous staff across various departments.

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Looking for problems in all the right places

“Experienced problem solver” is a term a human resources person might expect to see on an incoming resume. “Successful problem generator” isn’t nearly as likely. But maybe it should be.

Organizational creativity is a process with four separate and sequential stages – generation, conceptualization, optimization and implementation.  The generation stage, which launches the creative process, is where new ideas are developed – often by discovering problems that need to be solved. Not surprisingly, generation is usually chaotic, spontaneous and disordered.

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Integrated innovation is key for organizational growth

During a recent workshop I conducted in New Jersey, participants shared their perspective that innovation is often too tightly tied to Research and Development. It’s seen as something that R&D departments are “in charge of,” rather than as an integrated, daily activity for staff across a corporation. Integrated innovation makes everyone in the organization responsible for finding solutions.

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