The Chinese government plans to launch its Social Credit System in 2020. The aim? To judge the trustworthiness – or otherwise – of its 1.3 billion residents
They are calling it a Social Credit System. They will seemingly do this by monitoring and evaluating your daily activities; what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not).
That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school – or even just your chances of getting a date.
If you’ve ever been in an ideation workshop you’ll appreciate that some people thrive in coming up with ideas whilst others can’t help themselves from meeting every idea with a “how will that work” or “that’s impossible because…”.
It’s easy to dismiss those people as blockers, but in exactly the same way that it’s unhelpful to block every idea before they have been given time to be considered, an endless stream of impractical ideas is equally unhelpful because, although it seems as though you generated loads of ideas, we can’t progress with any of them.
The Idea Bridge is a perfect tool for these instances. There are only two rules; everyone participates and, this is the clever one, it’s done in silence – No verbal (or indeed, for the same reason, non-verbal) communication is allowed!
It uses the concept that each side of our brains are used for specific tasks and people often have a bias towards one side or the other. The left side helps us process language, logic and mathematical computations. The right side mainly helps us with visual imagery, creativity and ideas.
It’s called the idea bridge because we anchor the bridge on the left with the constraints that we have to work with and on the right with the objective and challenge for the innovations we need. The right brain thinkers write ideas on green sticky-notes on the right side, the left brain thinkers write questions and potential obstacles on yellow and constraints on red / pink sticky-notes.
As we work through these ideas and constraints we are building the bridge from both sides. We then link ideas with constraints with a line – the spars that suspend the bridge.
The term hack or hacking comes with some negative connotations, so first-off let’s get some clarity on what the term means in this sense. Hacking is the process to taking something that works and is functional, but then changing or enhancing it to either do the thing it was designed to do better or do another job.
Searching on #ideahack online will give you some spectacular examples of what can be achieved. A great example of hacking is the ikeahackers.net site which has literally thousands of ideas for turning an Ikea piece or pieces into something else. I so recommend going on this site and taking a look at some of the hacks. They are brilliant.
Idea Hacking (rather than ikea hacking) is a brilliant technique to get people creating ideas in a fun and stimulating way because you are not asking for brand new ideas, but ideas for new combinations, purposes and functions for an existing product. If the aim is to help people see how easy it is to get ideas flowing, this is a great tool.
An ideahack that works well as an example is to take the humble Mars bar – something that has lasted the test (or taste) of time and is incredibly simple. The first hack is to re-order the components – so rather than a nougat base with caramel on top then encased in chocolate you can quickly get to half a dozen combinations – my preferred option would be a chocolate base with a light nougat top encased in a brittle caramel.
We could then hack the format so rather than a bar, let’s put it through a roller and get a wide, thin bar, or even hack the bar into a biscuit or cake and again, the ideas will flow easily or even hack the solid format into a drink.
Then we could hack the utility so rather than it being a high calorie food item it becomes an energy gel – or even hack the idea that it’s something we consume and turn it into something completely different. Now, there’s a point at which I’m going to be pushing the Mars bar example a little too far, but stick with me here…you could hack the business model so perhaps rather than relying on a retail supply chain, could we hack it and make it special enough that we could sell it on a subscription model like some health supplements. We could even hack the pricing model – Mars bar are priced like most other chocolate bars on the shelf, what if we hack it to be the most expensive chocolate bar – the chocolate that we buy on a special occasion or take to a dinner party, what would that look like?
So you can see, when we take a simple technique (and this is just one of many) we can quickly and simply get to dozens and dozens or even hundreds of ideas. Brilliant Ideas #152-160 are exactly that and can be seen on this blog post.
You need to take this technique and run an idea hack at your organisation. Bring some of your products and, armed with this new tool invite people to hack them and see what happens!
This is a brilliant example of Innovation through subtraction.
This is Ryan McFarland who, like (hopefully) all Dads bought his Son a kids bike to learn to ride. His enthusiasm quickly turned to frustration as he watched his 2 year old “struggle with the weight and complexity of these so-called ‘children’s bikes”. So what did he do? He took away the pedals!
The genius isn’t the design – he’s actually massively simplified the design. The genius is that he dared to consider that he could improve something that has been around for centuries, and, while countless innovators have been busy improving the bike by adding features, Ryan had the audacity to subtract one (very important) feature – the pedals.
Innovation through subtraction can be applied to pretty anything – in this case a product but it could be a service or business model.
Take a moment to think about your organisation’s product or service. List all the things that it comprises then one by one, subtract each one and ask what the difference would be. Could subtraction;
– Change the customer experience in a positive way (would it be easier to use, more distinctive, more novel or fun)?
– Does it / could it help define a competitive advantage / act as a differentiator?
– Does it remove cost that will make you more money or allow you to be more competitive?
Another fantastic example of this is the restaurant chain Nandos. If you think about the normal customer journey at a restaurant; the customer is greeted, they are led to a table, given a menu of choices whilst drinks are ordered, the server takes you meal choices and takes it to kitchen where is joins a queue, a chef cooks the meal choices to the best of their abilities, a server brings your food when all of the meal choices have been cooked, you eat, the server takes the empty plates and gives you a bill.
The genius of Nandos is that they took that generic process and subtracted elements. The customer is greeted and shown to a table and given a menu, but you then queue to order at the kitchen so they have subtracted the need for a server to take your order. They then subtracted, to a great extent, choice meaning the chefs don’t need to think about cooking a range of things that have different cooking times, they just need to focuss on one thing and one thing only, cooking a stream of delicious chicken.
So if we go back to our checklist, does subtraction;
– Change the customer experience in a positive way? Firstly by removing the need for the server to take the order the customers go at their pace rather than the pace at which the server wants and by limiting the choice to chicken (for as long as the customer likes chicken) the customer gets brilliant food at a competitive price
– Does it / could it help define a competitive advantage / act as a differentiator? Yes. Not only is it fantastically popular and profitable, its ‘differentness’ makes for customer loyalty that is, in my opinion unrivalled amongst other multiples in the UK
– Does it remove cost that will make you more money or allow you to be more competitive? Yes. It’s much more competitively priced
If you want some help applying this approach to your organisation, contact me.
So, I am about to publish Brilliant Idea #290, but why do I share my ideas?. What do I hope to achieve by sharing my ideas? Why would I publish any more ideas? Here are 4 reasons why I (and you) should share your ideas.
1. All things are difficult before they become easy (Thomas Fuller). Sharing ideas is difficult. It requires you to discard a very natural instinct which is to protect and cosset something that is valuable and dear to you. Like many natural and instinctive behaviors, it’s actually very narcissistic and unhealthy. The more you do it, the easier it becomes so go on, start to share them.
2. While you can invent on your own, you can’t innovate on your own. Innovation needs a crowd and when you share good ideas, a crowd will gather and the more that crowd invests in supporting and shaping the idea , the greater the odds of it gaining momentum and ultimately happening.
3. The idea is the first and easiest step. Innovation is all about the execution and if you can take one of my ideas and execute, good luck to you. Can have all of my ideas!
4. People are significantly more likely to share their ideas with you. (but read my essential guide to listening to ideas here)
I know I said 4 reasons, but there is a 5th, and that’s that ideas are fun and energising. You’ll never be short of things to talk about at dinner parties or down the pub 😉
Because I share my ideas freely, one result is that people share their ideas freely with me which is both flattering as well as somewhat of a burden because when someone enthusiastically shares their idea with you they want you to respond enthusiastically and of course sometimes that’s hard to do.
Here my five essential rules for listening to ideas. If you are planning on hosting an idea event, or as some of the organisations that I have worked with have done set-up an innovation room, you would do well to share these ground rules before you start any ideation session.
1. ALL brilliant ideas started life sounding stupid. The more nonsensical it might first appear, the more brilliant it might be! You can make them feel stupid by firing reasons why the idea won’t work and no-one wants (or deserves) that.
2. Don’t judge quickly. You can kill ideas faster than most people can generate them by the way you respond both verbally and non-verbally. A confused look, an off the cuff joke – all of these things can crush people’s willingness to share. And remember, All brilliant ideas started life sounding stupid!
3. The punchline doesn’t make sense without the joke. Although we wouldn’t tell the punchline before the joke, quite often we share the idea and assume people understand the problem it solves. The easiest thing you can say when someone tells you their idea therefore is “ok, how did you come up with that”. This gives people the opportunity to describe the process that led to the idea and ultimately the problem it solves.
4. The “yes, and” principle. One of the best techniques I have come across is the “yes, and” principle. It’s blindingly simple and is a mirror image of the people we don’t like when we share our ideas – the “no, because” people.
5. Never ever, ever ignore or fail to acknowledge someone’s idea. It feels awful when it happens to you. Don’t do it to someone else.
This is a really simple one to help you get better results from idea workshops.
If you are looking for radical, potentially disruptive ideas (rather than “this broke, any ideas how we can stop if happening again”) you can greatly increase your chances by taking the time and effort to disrupt the status-quo of how you run meetings and workshops. Changing the location, roles, participants (ideally involve an outsider as facilitator) and approach to the meeting can make a profound difference.
There’s tonnes of evidence that the environment can make a big impact on creativity so look for somewhere more inspiring and engaging free of distractions from business as usual (BaU). btw. booking a sterile boardroom at the local hotel for your idea workshop isn’t necessarily that much better than using the sterile boardroom at the office! Think more radically!
Science and technology museums often rent space. As might your local art of tech University. Your brain is affected by such triggering factors and will possibly change track in new surroundings. Even simpler, go outside! Many of my best (and potentially most courageous ideas) were born in the pub! Indeed some of the ideas that changed the course of science and modern society were born in coffee shops and bars (if you haven’t already seen it, this is a brilliant video about where good ideas come from, http://youtu.be/NugRZGDbPFU). Running an idea workshops in your local pub might seem a little strange (and possibly inhibit participation), but you might also consider
Reverse Innovation flips the normal brainstorming exercise so rather than asking for instance, “ideas to improve the client on-boarding process”, reverse it and ask, “if we were trying to offer the worst possible experience for a new client – if we wanted to win a new client, but make them want to leave us immediately before they buy anything from us, what could we do”?
It’s brilliantly effective because it can be significantly easier for people to engage this way than with coming up with ideas. Because we’re asking for insights and observations (and the odd joke comment) rather than ideas, there’s no wrong answer – the people that might hold back for fear of looking stupid can contribute because it’s loads of fun and gets people talking.
The key is to then get the insights down – don’t filter them or allow people say “we do this, or we don’t do this”, just get them down – ideally on post-it notes on a wall.
Once you feel as though you’re running short of insights, stop and try re-organise them into some kind of journey from left to right.
Then, one by one ask, “what’s the reverse of this” and put these on a different colour post-it below it. Lastly ask, “do we do this”? If no, it’s as a potential idea and mark it in another colour post-it.
So, to extend my example of the client on-boarding process, we might have identified that “allowing sales people to sell something that the company doesn’t make would be a brilliant way of annoying a customer”. The reverse of this is “ensure sales people only sell what the company makes”. Assume in this case it has been known for the sales person to sell something that the company doesn’t make (shock horror). The idea to stop this from happening might be for instance, a product matrix that shows, in an easy format, what product combinations can be sold and an escalation process if the sales person gets it wrong.