About 15 years ago I considered myself to be a creative wizard. I’d recently learned the fundamental theories behind creative thinking and helping people have fresh ideas and I was all set to bring this revolution to my role as a development producer for the BBC.
I assembled a room full of the department’s brightest minds and we spent a good couple of hours coming up with programme and format ideas that thrilled us all.
The walls were filled with flip chart paper and post-its crammed with creative brilliance. I fairly swaggered back to my office that day and continued to walk tall, until a week or so later when I returned to the little-used meeting room to see all that paper, all those ideas, crumpled into a sorry pile beside the recycling bin.
I realized then that there was a lot more to innovation than good ideas on paper. That’s the easy bit. The hard work comes when you have to make the great ideas come alive.
Earlier this year Leading Ideas had the great pleasure of working with Amnesty International. In a rigorous and lively workshop, we took them through our innovation process; a process which stresses the importance of moving to action quickly with great ideas. It was clear throughout the day that the team involved wanted to apply the process to their everyday work and we left with high hopes that the session would bring genuine practical value.
One month later we received an email that delighted us. One of the attendees had come up with an idea following the workshop. He had completely rethought the approach to a big global conference he was involved in organising. He was going to take a risk and use the innovation framework he’d learned to try and get the very best from the brilliant individuals who would be present.
It struck me that he’d locked on to the most important aspects of innovation. A willingness to take a risk, to make failure a possibility, plus a determined drive to action.
This month we met again in Poland where his idea became a reality. We'd been invited back to work with him on the conference. For three days we had the privilege of leading some of the brightest minds in Human Rights through his well-crafted plan.
Thanks to this carefully-structured, creative and action-orientated conference, an already bold campaign now has greater strength, more ambition and some cracking ideas in place to give it even more impact (ideas we know won’t remain simply as thoughts on flip charts).
Innovation is a much-used word. Lots of businesses talk of its importance, few have the culture and behaviours in place to make it really happen. Risk is at the heart of this. Be prepared to let your ideas live beyond the flip chart. Initiate action early. Accept you might fail with the understanding that a bold adventure is rarely a waste of time, money or effort ... whatever the outcome. Don’t send your ideas straight to the recycling bin. Free a few and see what happens!