Why do some consultants seem to have an endless stream of new ideas and others (most of us) create only interesting, but merely incremental, ideas for new services or products?
Two things make the difference: where ideas come from and how they turn into something tangible. First, eurekas, epiphanies, breakthroughs and WOW! moments are created mostly from assembling and reconfiguring existing knowledge. Look at any "management breakthrough" and you will see elements of traditional, and usually widely known, concepts or processes. Despite the common image of the solitary inventor or the firm working on a secret project, discoveries rarely arise from isolated effort. Perhaps more important than effort or intellectual prowess is the role other people play in creation of "our” ideas. Bounce ideas off other people, ask for help and don’t feel like divulging ideas will lead to people stealing them.
The second point is that new concepts don't spring from our heads fully formed. They sometimes take months or years to develop. We have a hunch but not the insight, an insight but not a way to deliver it, an efficient delivery mechanism but not the business case to make it a consulting service. Sharing these ideas, reading and discussing ideas in other disciplines, trying them out in non-business settings can all promote development. Think slow cooking, not microwave. Finally, recognizing that it takes time, don't abandon an idea that you think is going nowhere too quickly.
Steven Johnson has a great short (17 min) video summary
of the importance of collaboration. Tip:
Just as Louis Pasteur said that "Chance favors the prepared mind," when it comes to innovation, we could amend that to say that chance favors the connected
mind. Make it a habit to (1) keep your not yet developed ideas in play as long as possible, and (2) discuss them with colleagues, especially those who do not necessarily have the same perspective as you do.© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA