Cumulative Insights Generate our Innovations

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Innovations are not really the results of secluded geniuses working on their own; rather, it’s the cumulative insights of people that lead to breakthroughs. David Kord Murray, in Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others, encourages people to borrow others’ ideas to address the challenges they face.

His six steps offer a road map of how to do so:

  • Define– Clarify what the problem is, from the perspective of what you can do about it (e.g., Faced with the new, inexpensive digital watches which Japan introduced in the 1970s, Swatch redefined watches by their time-keeping features, but as a wearable accessory).
  • Borrow – Find ideas used by others to address similar problems (e.g. Ford crated an assembly line for cars, based on how meat packers “disassembled” cow).
  • Combine – Connect and combine these borrowed ideas
  • Incubate – Don’t expect immediate results; allow combinations to incubate into a solution.
  • Judge – Identify the strength and weakness of the solution before committing to it.
  • Enhance – Eliminate the weak points and enhance the strong ones.

One of our workshops, Let’s Get Creative to Innovate, adopts these steps in a group setting. Often conducted for Executive Peer Advisory Groups (e.g., Vistage Worldwide) and within corporations, it allows all the members to use creativity techniques (like brainstorming) to explore different definitions, identify lots of ideas from which to borrow, and have fun combining ideas. In one workshop, a participant was trying to figure out how to get an invitation to meet with a buyer in a very large company that had essentially blacklisted the firm because of an incident that occurred 10 years ago with different management and sales people! Several ideas were generated, and after the workshop incubated into a strategy that enabled the company to get the invitation they so badly wanted!

Try the six step formula and see what new opportunities it opens for you. And then share with us your story to inspire others!