People discussing ideas.

Process is important as content when selecting which ideas to go with.

This blog was prompted by a recent tweet by Professor Ethan Mollick highlighting this 2019 paper by Justin M. Berg which found participants asked to ranked the potential creativity of their initial ideas before developing them into final ideas “tended to under-rank their highest-potential idea.

“The initial idea that participants thought was their second best tended to actually be their best idea in the end. Broadly, the results suggest that creators exhibit myopia when forecasting the potential creativity of their initial ideas, leading them to overlook their most promising initial ideas. However, forecasting at a higher (more abstract) construal level helped participants identify their best initial idea.” For more details, read Justin’s paper.

Given how much more complex, competitive and fast-changing most markets have become and how much quicker they are likely to change as the new AI tools are integrated into the everyday business functions of all kinds of organisations, ensuring you’ve selected the ideas with the most impact on your effectiveness and competitiveness will become evermore important.

Choosing to focus on the wrong one and spending resources, including time, implementing it could mean losing your lead in your market or failing to make the impact need to take the lead or stay competitive.

How to avoid idea potential myopia

Firstly, creating the right process isn’t just about the process. As Justin’s paper demonstrates, it’s firstly about setting the scene with the right mindset and objectives for the creative session to ensure the longer view prevails when you come to selection.

Here’s what I would suggest from what I learned on my MBA, which included the six-month elective course Creativity, Innovation and Change.

  • Set the scene properly – the usual ‘creative hygiene’ considerations need to apply e.g. ideally going away from the normal workplace setting to show normal rules of hierarchy don’t apply and creating a relaxed atmosphere to allow ideas to flow e.g. setting a more casual dress code for the session
  • Set a SMART objective of selecting one or more ideas which will help your organisation achieve not only its 12-month goals but also its five-year key objectives
  • Use Nominal Group Technique or the Improved version (which includes a pre-meeting stage, ensures full anonymity of contributions and speeds up transcription) for ideation – to ensure no members of the group dominate through rank or being more vocal
  • When undertaking the second filtering stage of the creative process – the classic three-part process is Ideate, Filter, Select – make a list of how each idea will aid both the 12-month and the five-year key objectives
  • Overall, use Disney Strategy to optimise the each stage of the creative process. The key differentiators in this method are moving to different spaces between each space (even different corners of the same room works) and having breaks between them in which everyone undertakes a fun task to get their conscious brain off-task.
  • For the final Prioritising stage, score how much each idea will contribute to each set of objectives – a scale of 1 to 10 is good, with a consensus among participants after each privately giving a score first. Also look at techniques including Comparison tables, Force-field analysis, Listing Pros and Cons and Estimate-Discuss-Estimate – where group member vote privately on each idea, the group’s average score for each idea discussed, then a final private vote is taken to produce an average score for each idea.

If you’d like help implementing these ideas, get in touch.