Innovation Must Go Beyond Lip Service

From Edward de Bono

Many organisations today pay lip service to the idea of ‘innovation.’ But it is not enough to say that you are in favor of innovation and then do nothing about it.

Many organisations have told me that they already have too many new ideas. I do not see how you can have too many ideas. You just pick the best.

Too many corporations still believe that nothing can be done about creativity. There are people who are creative and there are people who are not creative. You just have to hope and wait for the creative people to have new ideas. This is an extremely old-fashioned view.

The deliberate and formal skills of Lateral Thinking can be taught, learned, and practiced in as deliberate a manner as we learn and use mathematics. Creativity is not just a natural talent.

Brainstorming doesn’t go far enough. One afternoon a group of workshops, using one of the formal tools of lateral thinking, generated 21,000 ideas for a steel company. It took the company nine months to sort through the ideas generated in that afternoon. This goes way beyond what brainstorming will do for you.

The first step is to give someone senior the responsibility of doing something about innovation. This person will be required to report periodically on what he or she has done. The person does need to be senior.

The next step is to make the senior levels in an organisation aware of the importance of creativity and what can be done about it. This could be achieved in the form of a lecture or seminar.

Some structure needs to be put in place to encourage, channel, and examine new ideas. Eventually a Centre for Innovation and Creativity may be set up.

A sufficient group of people need to be trained formally in the deliberate creative methods of Lateral Thinking. This does need to be done formally, using certified Lateral Thinking instructors, and so on. Messing around has no value.

At all times the chief executive must emphasize the importance of creativity to the organisation and also indicate to people that new thinking will be noticed, rewarded and acted upon. Expectations need to be set.

A formal Creative Hit List might be constructed and made available to all. This is a focus list of areas that seem to need new ideas. Employees at all levels are invited to have ideas around these listed areas.

Creativity and innovation should be seen as everyone’s responsibility.