Interactive Innovation


A Technique for Inventing Ideas and Solving Tough Problems....

Clearly an issue that is central - and common - to organizations is the conceptualization and development of creative ideas. The traditional approach to this task has been to locate and hire imaginative people, to brief them on particular problems, and send them off to come up with ideas and solutions.

In essence, the creative process has been treated as a personal, private task faced by individuals working alone or with one or perhaps two partners.

Obviously, this approach seems to work pretty well most of the time. Sometimes, it works exceptionally well.

But at other times the ideas that emerge are, at best, only adequate.

Over the last thirty years, however, there has been a great deal of research on the subject of helping people to think more creatively. Sometimes this field is referred to as creative problem solving ; sometimes it is described as idea generation or idea facilitation.

Much of the work in the field draws on the stimulation of group interaction to generate better ideas fast. As a consequence of the research in this area, a great deal has been learned about how to stimulate original thinking and how to find unique solutions to problems using group processes.

The more advanced organizations in industry, commerce, and elsewhere in the private sector have shown strong interest in this field because of the promise it holds, especially in the areas of research and development, new products, marketing, and advertising.

The Center for Research & Development developed this process, under the direction of Alex Biel, its executive director, and tailored it to meet the specific marketing needs of businesses.

It is called Interactive Innovation, and it is offered as a service of Alexander L. Biel & Associates.

What is Interactive Innovationsm?
Interactive Innovation is a group of techniques aimed at encouraging lateral (or divergent) thinking. It also specifically addresses the problem of turning ideas, which are often fragmentary, into solutions.

Interactive Innovation takes the best of existing systems as a starting point. It is flexible and streamlined and is capable of producing results in as little as three to five hours.

Some of the principles that are involved in the process are familiar, others less so:

The process is all about turning ideas into solutions.

It's critical to separate the process of achieving a solution (our responsibility) from the content of the workshop itself (yours).

Too often, potentially big ideas are stillborn either because individuals are too timid to suggest them or because they fear they will be considered inappropriate by their peers.

Hence, one of the most important disciplines in our workshops is the separation of idea generation from evaluation. The process harnesses the combined energies and creativity of a team of individuals.

The facilitator makes use of a series of exercises to encourage divergent thinking, while remaining completely flexible throughout.

How does it work?
Each workshop typically consists of between 7 and 9 participants working together for 4-5 hours.

Ideally we would aim to have a very diverse mix of skills and experience represented within each workshop.

There are three roles:-

The problem owner: is the client. This is the person who is seeking one or more solutions to a difficult problem that s/he has defined.

The process leader: is the facilitator. The process leader is responsible for ensuring that the process works well, so that the maximum value is extracted from the group. In short, doing his or her best to ensure that new, intriguing and practical solutions are generated by the group.

Participants: are invited by the Problem Owner to contribute ideas, and to build upon the ideas of others. They are usually drawn from the client organization and those of the client's marketing partners (advertising agencies, PR people, researchers, etc.). However, on occasion, outside 'experts' may also be recruited to participate.

The workshop itself is just the visible part of the process. A great deal of prior preparation is done in a planning meeting that is held with the problem owner. Typically such meetings explore issues such as the background to the problem, the identity of the most appropriate problem owner, steps having been taken to date to solve the problem, and why such initiatives have been unsatisfactory. This meeting takes place prior to the workshop, and has been found to be of considerable value in its own right.

The workshop itself, run by the facilitator commences with a climate setting exercise. It is during this part of the process that the facilitator introduces the participants to one another, and ensures that the meeting starts on a relaxed, positive footing.

The problem owner then defines the problem, and the group is invited to contribute ideas that will solve the problem.

The facilitator will also introduce one or more enabling techniques, when required, to encourage the group to be more speculative and imaginative, and to 'take chances' in offering solutions that are often not initially practical.

Examples of enabling techniques we have found to be particularly useful include word associations, shared drawings, excursions in a box, and visits to different 'worlds'.

This process generally produces a large number of ideas or solutions to the problem being addressed.

Our experience is that the more divergent, or unconventional ideas often offer the richest and most potentially exciting solutions.

However, these 'big ideas' are frequently flawed by a serious obstacle when initially presented.

The balanced assessment, introduced after the idea generation has occurred, is a means of rigorously reintroducing the positive super critical. It is a process for assessing the merits as well as the obstacles or concerns relating to key selected ideas generated by the group.

Obstacles are then addressed, one at a time, until a new, intriguing and practical solution is found.

The client is then invited to draw up an action plan as to how he or she will proceed through to implementation.

When can it be used?
Interactive Innovation is a powerful means of identifying original yet practical solutions to difficult problems. The following is a list of situations in which the technique has proved to be particularly appropriate:

Constructing unique positioning strategies
Generating promotion ideas
Developing advertising ideas
Originating new products
Searching for new business opportunities
Creating revitalization plans
Countering competitive thrusts
Operationalizing consumer research discoveries
Creating unique Internet opportunities
Inventing new distribution strategies
Exploring new markets
Conceiving new organizational structures

For further information about Interactive Innovation, please click Frequently Asked Questions

To download a presentation please go to Papers and Presentations

The deliverable is a transcript of the ideas created.

Additional Services
Alexander L. Biel & Associates is fully prepared to assist Interactive Innovation clients in carrying the solutions invented during workshops to the next stage of development within the client's organization.

While some clients wish to operationalize the solutions in-house, others prefer to engage us to help them move the solutions forward. Therefore, charges for these services are estimated upon request.

Whom to contact?
Should you wish to learn more about the ways in which Interactive Innovation can help your organization, or if you have further questions please contact us!

Alexander L. Biel & Associates

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