How to create impactful ideas:
Make them more robust

Not all ideas are good ideas. And not every good idea is born in full working form. IGNITERS, or those who deem themselves to be good at generating new ideas, have a hundred before breakfast (I know, I am one)! IGNITERS have a CREATIVE mindset, and the IGNITE phase, or the generative phase of creating new ideas, needs lateral thinking skills and an open mind, as critical judgement can shut down the space that ideas need to grow and to flourish. Creating an idea is like germinating a seed. If you give it too much adversity too early, it dies. There comes a time however, when the idea needs to be INVESTIGATED with a CRITICAL mindset so that a decision can be made to move it towards INVESTMENT and IMPLEMENTATION. Each of these phases, that ideas travel through, need a different set of skills, and the art of innovation is how to harness this diversity through effective collaboration, in service of the idea. From my research, I have discovered a pattern; that those who are often good at IGNITING ideas, are often, not so skilled at INVESTING in them. They can find it hard to influence others, to get traction on their ideas and to make them work. Here are a few tips on how to create more impactful ideas.

The Six ’I’s® of innovation

Innovating, or creating value from new ideas, is a journey where an idea travels through six distinct phases. Each phase needs different ways of thinking and a different set of skills. Like any journey, an idea can get lost, meet a dead end or have to turn around and retrace its steps, but overall it needs to go through each phase to move from being a creative idea, that solves a problem or addresses an opportunity, to becoming a successful innovation.
Here are the six phases, which I have termed The Six ‘I’s® of Innovation.

  1. IDENTIFY with the mindset of CURIOSITY to spot opportunities by understanding trends and customer needs.
  2. IGNITE with the mindset of CREATIVITY by creating novel solutions.
  3. INVESTIGATE with the mindset of CRITICAL thinking, by developing propositions, prototyping and testing.
  4. INVEST with the mindset of COURAGE by creating business models and plans for investment.
  5. IMPLEMENT with the mindset of COMMITMENT by bringing an idea to life and creating value.
  6. IMPROVE with the mindset of being CLEVER by optimising an idea into another area of opportunity.

Each person has a unique way of contributing to this journey. Most usually, an individual will have one or two dominant ‘I’s, others will be medium or low. An IGNITER, for example, will be good at coming up with new ideas and connecting them to create new ways of thinking. This is different to an IMPLEMENTER who is good at planning and organising and building teams with the necessary skills to make an idea work. We need both skill sets to make innovation happen. What is important is that each person’s strengths are aligned around a common PURPOSE so that they can harness diversity towards an agreed objective.

INVESTIGATORS are the gardeners who prune and shape an idea with critical thinking, testing and research, whilst INVESTORS are good at making courageous decisions after examining the feasibility of whether an idea might work. Both, ultimately, want to create something that can withstand the real world. It can be emotionally difficult for IGNITERS to offer up their ideas to the robust and detailed thinking of INVESTIGATORS and INVESTORS, as this requires a degree of vulnerability. It can also be demoralising when ideas don’t make it through intense analysis. If there is too much critical thinking however, too early on, ideas are in danger of never getting off the ground. This makes innovating more of an art than a science that requires self-awareness of individual and team strengths.

Knowing when to present an idea to more rigorous thinking is an important influencing skill an IGNITER needs to learn, particularly if they work in environments that value and develop critical thinking over creativity.

In October last year, I was the Keynote speaker at InnovationDB Masterclass in London. Within the speech I took a poll. You can see, from the graphs below, that 24% of people thought their organisations were good or extremely good at stimulating a mindset of creativity, whilst 59% thought their organisations were good or extremely good at stimulating critical thinking. Yet most people in the room considered themselves to be IGNITERS.

If this is the case in your organisation, and you consider yourself to be an IGNITER, here are some tips you can try to help you to make your ideas more robust so they can be refined through the INVESTIGATE phase:

  1. Get input from INVESTIGATORS and INVESTORS early on, not necessarily in the form of their critical thinking or decision making, but perhaps in the form of guidelines that you can use in the IDENTIFY phase to help focus where to look for new opportunities.
  2. Involve INVESTIGATORS and INVESTORS during the prototyping stages of design thinking, to gather customer feedback and to observe how your ideas are being received by potential users or customers. Help them see the value of what you are creating.
  3. As far as you can, think through counter arguments to objections you might face so that you can make your idea more robust. This will help you to give the idea it’s best chance of success (you can check out the INVESTIGATOR tools in my book to see what might help you).
  4. Understand that if an INVESTIGATOR or INVESTOR starts talking over the detail of your idea, it may mean that they think it has potential; so feel encouraged.
  5. See INVESTIGATORS and INVESTORS as on the same gardening team – you germinate the ideas and they grow them. All are equally important.
  6. Accept that not all your ideas will work in the real world, even your favourite ones – and that you will save a lot of time and resources by parking ideas that are not ready to move into implementation.
  7. Have the courage to be vulnerable and keep offering up ideas even when it is difficult to do so. This will help you to build up resilience and depersonalise yourself from ideas generated in the IGNITE phase.
  8. Remember that IGNITERS and the mindset of CREATIVITY are fundamental to the innovation journey for without new ideas, innovation doesn’t happen.

Understanding how people contribute to the innovation journey is important as it gives a common language that can foster collaboration and harness diversity. It also highlights the realisation that different skills are required if an idea is to move from ‘idea land’ to creating tangible value. In the right way, and at the right time, INVESTIGATORS and INVESTORS can help IGNITERS to think through the detail of how an idea might work and how to move it forward. This increases the likelihood that an idea will become an innovation that can have impact in the real world.

Find out how you uniquely contribute to the innovation journey by completing The Six ‘I’s® Assessment.

© Natalie Turner, October 2019.