If you want to come up with the innovative ideas that your competition misses, you have to do the thing the competition won't.
If you're a video person, I lay it all out in the video below. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!
You know, there's an activity I do with my clients a lot of times, whether it's during a keynote, or a breakout session, a workshop, an online team innovation lab—something like that—and it's a, it's an activity about, about making connections, because that's, that's what innovation is all about—it's making connections.
So, I'm not going to go over the whole activity here, but basically I show them a bunch of different words, or objects, or something, and I ask them as a group, in little teams, to come up with as many, as many connections as they can. And typically I give them around seven minutes for this activity.
And here's what's interesting—happens almost all the time—I'm not going to say a hundred percent of the time, but at least like in the high 80s to mid 90s percent of the time. Um, while they're working, I'm kind of hanging back listening to the buzz of the room. You know, the activity. You, you could, you can hear it, it's palpable, because you know they're talking, they're working together.
And remember, I've given them seven minutes to come up with as many combinations, as many connections as they, as they can think of, given whatever parameters that I've, that I've assigned.
And here's what almost always happens.
It starts off strong. There's a buzz, and you feel the activity and, and the, and the energy as they're talking, and they're coming up with things, and there's laughter, and there's thinking, and that sort of thing. And that goes on for about the first four minutes. And after about minute number four, there's almost invariably this lull.
And you, I mean you, you hear it. The, the volume goes down. And it stays there for about 30 seconds or sometimes. It can seem really uncomfortable.
But then, then, it almost invariably picks up again, and finishes strong. When I call time at the end of seven minutes, it's usually back to where it was at the beginning.
Now here's the interesting thing. What's actually happening here? Well, for the first four minutes, give or take, what are they doing? Well, they're coming up with the easy answers, aren't they? The ones that are kind of obvious. The ones that, the ones that everybody else would come up with.
And then when it gets to that, like four-ish minute mark, and that lull happens, that's when they think of, "Well it's, yeah, we're done, we're out of ideas." But, because I've told them that they have to do this for seven minutes, they eventually start getting back into it.
Now, here's something interesting. During the debrief, I talk to them about this phenomenon. I said, "Did, you know, how many of you noticed that?" And almost every hand goes up. I say, "Now, here's a question for the groups that are here. How many of you came up with good ideas after the lull?" Almost every group raises their hand.
I say, "And, there's there's no right or wrong answer here—did any of you come up with with some of your best ideas after the lull?"
Fewer hands go up—but, hands do go up.
Almost every single time there's at least a few groups that came up with some of their best ideas after the lull.
Now, why am I telling you all this? Because it's about you and your competition.
See, the lull, when you're trying to come up with new innovations for your, for your industry, for your product line, for your services, you know that you, that are similar to what your competition is offering, you go through that same activity of trying to come up with ideas for, "What can we do to make ourselves better, to make our to make our products, our services more valuable to the marketplace?"
And your competition is doing the same thing.
Here's the thing. Your competition, in all likelihood, is going to stop at the lull.
Because most of us do.
Most of us, we get to the lull and we go, "Well that's it, we've exhausted it, that's all the ideas there are."
But not you. Not anymore.
Your competition's going to stop at the lull. What are you going to do now?
You're going to keep going.
Because it's the ideas that happen after the lull—those are the ideas that the competition's probably not going to think of. They're going to come up with the easy ones, the obvious ones.
Now, they don't necessarily look easy or obvious. But then the competition will stop, while you keep going. Because you understand that that's a part of the innovative process. That's a part of the creative process. Working through the lull.
So when you and your team hit that lull, I want you to remember this video. And I want you to think back and go like, "Oh, that's right, that guy—don't remember his name, doesn't matter—but that guy said this was part of the process, and that this is where the competition stops. We're not gonna do that. Let's keep going, let's give it another three minutes, four minutes, whatever the time, you know, another day." Depends on the timeline for what you're trying to accomplish but, "Let's give it just that little bit more. Let's work past the lull."
And that's going to take us to places that the competition will never see coming.
I'm Bill Stainton. I'll be back next time to help you Turn Your Creativity into Money™.