A thousand ways to be innovative

“Why do you exaggerate, just to make a point?” – Prasna** seemed a bit annoyed with me.

“Why do say that Prasna? Where am I exaggerating?”

“Look at the title for this post. Is that not an exaggeration?”

“Certainly not. I am indeed sharing ‘a thousand ways to generate ideas’.That is the first important step before you can innovate. You must a fresh new idea. This is where people suffer most. Habitual ways of thinking don’t let them think differently”

“Go ahead. I am curious.”

“May I ask you a question?”

“Only once.”

“What do you think is an idea? How do you define it?”

“I know your definition. Why don’t you move ahead.”

One exercise we try in our Creative Block Busting© Workshop is this. I ask people to give me suggestions on how to make the room in which are seated, more cheerful. Here are a  few suggestions that people offer:

“Re- arrange seating”

“Open the windows”

“Paint the walls with graffiti”

“Play soft music”

“Put flowers on every table”

“Arrange for a beer vending machine.”

“Change the facilitator!”

I then point out that every suggestion had two things in common. There was an active verb and a noun in every suggestion.

We then agree on a definition of an idea that I propose. According to me ‘an idea is a prescription for action. An idea when executed, must change people, places and situations – otherwise it is not an idea.’

“Very clever. How do I use this definition in practice?”

“That is what I am coming to Prasna. I want to demonstrate a simple technique for getting new ideas. Take a look at this booklet ‘Ignition Spark’. This is little booklet has 1000 active verbs.”

“How does this work?”

“Here is how. Let us think of a problem, a challenge for which you want new ideas. What can we look at?”

“How to help senior managers learn new things in spite of their tight schedules”

“Ok. Now open the booklet ‘Ignition Spark’. Open any page randomly.”

“Done. I am on page 57.”

“Now pick up any active verb randomly from that page.”


“Now generate an idea for helping Senior Managers learn new things in spite of their tight schedules, using the verb tune.”

“Why don’t you show me how it works?”

“What if we ‘tuned’ into the way they currently learn new things. Example: using the smart phone or the iPad etc.? We know that most of them have no time to go through elaborate operating instructions manuals. They often learn by trying different features and discovering how they work.”

“I am not clear. How does this address the problem?”

“What if I delivered important lessons through apps for  iPhone, iPad etc.? Make the lessons simple, easy and fun. Something they can try during car rides, long flights, and so on.”

“OK. You used ‘tune’ to ignite further thoughts and put an idea together. So how does this work for your readers?”

“First. They can download Creative Block Busting© Ignition Spark for free. Once they have this on their computer they can use it anytime. The beauty is that if one active verb does not work, they can dump that verb. They have 999 other options to choose from. The trick is to relax and enjoy the process. Do not worry about being right. You will then get several options to consider.”

“So there really are 1000 ways to generate new ideas. Does this really work?”

“Of course it does. I have distributed over 3000 copies of this booklet over the last 7 years, through my workshops. It is the most popular technique. People find it easy to use. ”

“Do you have any tips to share?”

“Keep trying, do not give up. Keep at it even if the ideas do not seem to make sense. The trick is to try as many verbs as possible. Move fast, do not think too hard. You will crack this pretty fast. Keep this on your desktop, so that you can use it any time you want.

“So, when does this idea become an innovation?

“When you implement this new idea and it benefits your stakeholders.”

**Prasna Rao is an unusual friend. He appears every time I start writing something. He is almost always there when I am writing my blog. He asks questions that are razor sharp and often makes me uncomfortable. He is relentless till I answer his questions in simple, clear terms. You might find that he is most of the times asking questions that you want to. Therefore he is on your side, while he is putting me in the dock. I call him my Uninvited Coach









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