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Warwick MBA lecture: How to find good ideas

I was recently asked to deliver a guest lecture to the MBA students at Warwick University. The MBA was recently named the world’s best distance-learning MBA by the Financial Times, and the full-time MBA is currently ranked #1 in the world by The Economist (sweet, no pressure then).

Donning my very best lecturer-appropriate blazer, I shared some of the key things I’ve learned about ideation from leading creative teams, and helping organisations to bring new ideas to life.

Finding good ideas is by no means a straight-forward process, but here are a few things I’ve picked up which really help to generate good ideas, and make them happen. Here are the key points I shared:

  • Before you start on the idea, make sure everyone understands the problem you’re trying to solve.
  • Have lots of ideas (quantity over quality).
  • Combine ideas to make better ones.
  • Use real feedback to make ideas better.
  • Collaborate whenever possible and use activities like no-bad idea brainstorming, free-writing and sketching to find better ideas.
  • Constantly look for inspiration for ideas in weird places.
  • If it’s a business idea, weigh it up commercially and creatively.
  • Ignore limitations. It’s an idea. Worry about the limitations as you try to bring it to life.
  • Commit to making it happen. Don’t take shortcuts.
  • Ask yourself if it’s been done before? And does it scare you? (if it makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, it’s probably a good idea).
  • Give people the motivation, permission and conditions to embrace ideation and become over-sharers.
  • Remember, everyone has ideas. Involve everyone in ideation and give everyone a voice.
  • Don’t be afraid to share a bad idea if it gives other people the confidence to speak up.
  • Over-communicate the idea to leaders in the organisation (they are responsible for making it happen).
  • Give everyone the tools, guidance and parameters to distribute the idea.
  • Involve all levels of employee in bringing the idea to life.
  • Make sure everyone understands the upsides of the idea.
  • Launch the idea internally first, and then externally.
  • You can’t do everything at once. Commit to one big idea and create a bank to store future ideas.
  • Set clear deadlines for ideas generation and stick to them (use a timer).
  • Measure the success of the idea and share it with everyone involved regularly and consistently.
  • Take your time to explain the idea properly to the people that matter.
  • If you can’t find any good ideas, re-articulate the problem.

Delighted to say everyone made it through the lecture unscathed and I’ll be popping back next month to deliver another one. If you find this stuff interesting and you’d like a copy of the slides from the lecture please email and I’ll fire them over.

I’m also really keen to hear other people’s thoughts on how to find good ideas. If you’ve got a different take on things, please do comment below. After all, good ideas happen when people share them.


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