How to … have kick-ass ideas

by 01 Nov 2006

Why is it important?

Breakthrough or ‘kick-ass’ ideas are what make organisations world-class players, setting them apart from the competition. Without innovation, companies cannot grow, and their products, services and people can become stale.

Although the likes of marketing, sales and business development are traditionally thought of as idea makers, everyone in the company has a responsibility to be creative, including HR.

An innovative approach to people management, for instance, can make a huge difference to employer brand and recruitment and retention rates.

Chris Barez-Brown, author of How to Have Kick-ass Ideas, believes we are all born creative, but many of us have forgotten how to use our natural inventiveness. Here are the first steps towards getting it back.

Where do I start?

Identify problems to which you can apply some creative thinking. While some ideas materialise as a bolt from the blue, many come when you focus on a particular area.

Give the matter your close attention and collect as much related information as possible.

“The starting point is to get insight: you really need to understand what your needs and opportunities are,” says Barez-Brown. “Often people have great ideas that solve the wrong issue.”

It is important to remember that to be ‘kick-ass’, your idea has to get people excited and make a major positive impact. Always bear in mind its outcome and effect. And don’t confine your thinking to the HR department. Look at what wider impact you can have – truly great ideas will have knock-on effects on other departments and the organisation as a whole.

Be inspired

Inspiration comes from everywhere – inside and outside of the organisation. Be receptive and constantly open to new influences, opinions and ideas. Go to places and attend events that will stimulate your thinking – anything from a music concert to a conference or, more pertinently, a motivational speech from an HR thought leader or guru.

When it comes to recognising a good idea, listen to your subconscious. If you’re excited by it, the chances are others will be, too.

Change your outlook

You can’t expect to generate new ideas and fresh solutions by taking the same approach to solving every problem, or by merely following orders.

Be prepared to try something new and challenge conventional wisdom and ways of doing things, which may involve taking risks. Even if it transpires that a previously tried and trusted method looks the best bet, is there an innovative twist you can take to improve results?

Unleash your creativity

Ideas can come when we’re on our own, but more often as a result of collaborating creatively with others. Hectic offices aren’t always conducive to creative thought, so orchestrate brainstorming sessions with the team away from the workplace.

Give everyone a chance to put their thoughts and ideas forward – the more perspectives and experiences that come to the table, the better.

Barez-Brown advises against trying too hard to make creative sessions funny, but reckons the more recreational the environment, the greater the chance that a creative spark will ignite.

“If it feels like work, you’re doing it wrong,” he says. “I don’t mean this in a flippant way – creativity is not bean bags and juggling – but the easiest way to fully engage your conscious and subconscious brain is to inject a little playfulness.”

For more information

How to Have Kick-ass Ideas, Chris Barez-Brown, Harper Element, ISBN 0007220944

Second opinion on having kick-ass ideas and what to do with them

By Chris Barez-Brown, creative director at training company ?WhatIf!

What are the essential processes you need to go through to arrive at the kick-ass idea?

Three things make kick-ass ideas happen: insight stimulus - you need to create the right environment for yourself to make sure you come up with new and interesting ideas and impact - you need to make something happen.

Most of my work with businesses has been about teaching them to get the right attitude, behaviour and state to make their creativity truly fly.

Which organisations would you say are particularly good at coming up with kick-ass ideas?

Most people think creative businesses are the ones that have the really big ideas, or are the ones that have huge consumer brands.

However, for me, the businesses that have truly embraced creativity are having ideas on a daily basis and are constantly moving the business forward and reinforcing their people's right to express themselves fully.

What are your three top tips?

Use state of mind as a compass. Intellectually, there is only so much we can do to judge creativity and ideas, but if you get excited, if you feel confused, if your ideas create any reaction in you, there may be something interesting going on - so explore it further.

Make sure your ideas are real. Ideas are complex bundles of value and emotion which are impossible to explore from a business plan. Bring them to life so that you and others can fully engage in them, and see how they work and how to make them better.

Break your fundamental habits and bring freshness to your everyday life - for example, by taking a different route to work, or sleeping the wrong way round in your bed. If you always have the same experiences, you will always think in the same way. Make small changes to your routine and see big changes in your state and creativity.

By Scott Beagrie. Courtesy of Personnel Today magazine.


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