The Answer is in the Question, The Invitational Stem

Newton’s third law of motion states that “Every action is accompanied by an equal and opposite reaction. And, these forces always occur in pairs”. This simple law reveals that a reactive force cannot exist without an active counterpart.

An answer is a reaction of opposition, agreement or indifference to a previous action. The magnitude or quality of an answer largely depends on the question. The principles in the art of conversation instruct that desired results depend on the right answers, and the right answers depend on the right questions.

This truth is especially critical in creative thinking and ideation, where optimal results are desired.

A simple way to build a strong question is to phrase it around an Invitational Stem.

An Invitational Stem is the beginning part of a question that focuses on very specific phrasing. The focus on the phrasing is what creates a great question, thus resulting in a great answer. The key structure of the phrase is:

“In what ways might we…..”?

In what ways might we increase productivity?” is a better question than “How do we increase productivity?”, or “Let’s increase productivity!

The term “How?” is narrow-focused and asks for a specific. “Ways” is broad, open-ended and encourages creative thought.

Another great phrase alternative is:

“How might we…”?

Might…” implies a greater level of curiosity, wonder and experimenting.

In ideation, quantity is a value as much as quality.

Hybrid Group Brainstorming

A variety of reasons play a role in the behavior of an individual within a group context. Through the lens of Psychology alone, factors like fear, rejection and self-esteem significantly stifle a person’s ability to contribute value. Corporate stigmas like bureaucracy, hierarchy and personal agendas dramatically alter the immediate and the long-term performance of a team, and the organization.

A study (PDF) conducted by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and INSTEAD Business School revealed that traditional group brainstorming sessions yield ideas that are both lower in quality and quantity. Allowing time for participants to individually generate ideas, then bring the ideas into the collaborative environment proved to be ideal.

Based on this research, I’ve developed a Dynamically Hybrid Group Brainstorming method. This approach allows for the ideal time and setting needed for optimal individual thinking by allowing members to approach the challenge individually in their own environment under terms that stimulate creative thought and ideas.

Setup:

 

  • The Brief – Write down the challenge or the objectives. Make sure the brief is concise, and general enough as not to imply any ideas or directions. Your challenge needs to be well thought out and clear, preferably written in an Invitational Stem format (“In What Ways Might We______“). Establish specific deadlines.
  • The Participants – Select the participants. The facilitator will distribute and collect the ideas.
  • The Exchange – Set up a way to anonymously exchange the ideas. It could be through email, online or paper. Setting up a online password-protected publishing platform using WordPress is a great location for the exchange to happen. Publish your brief as a post and allow commenting. Advise each participant to submit their ideas as comments using factitious names. And, make sure that all comments are held for moderation by checking the option “administrator must always approve the comment” (located in the Discussion settings). This way, participants will not see other participant’s ideas. Once all ideas have been submitted, the administrator will approve the comments, thus making the submissions viewable by the group.

 

 

1. Distribute Brief – Make the brief public to the participants. Instruct them to come up with ideas and submit the results by a specific deadline. Advise everyone not to spend too much time elaborating on each idea, simply note the idea or thought, and move on. Quantity is more important than quality at this point. Encourage the individuals to work in their desired environments (cafe, bookstore, etc.)

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What is Innovation?

Innovation is the successful exploitation and execution of the opportunity of an idea within a business model.

Innovation – This is the space following an idea generation session (creative thinking, brainstorming, etc.). Innovation deals more with quality, evaluation and implementation. It’s an idea that has the proper resources supporting it and ideal market conditions ahead. Innovation is about moving a novel idea into an idea of value that fills a specific need. Identifying an innovative idea can be a creative process.

Idea Generation – The generation of ideas. This deals with quantity and novelty. This is what we typically refer to as Creativity.

Opportunity – An opportunity looks at and depends on resources (capital, staff, sales team, etc.), and conditions (consumer need & desire, idea value, competition, timing, etc.)

Bottom Line: Innovation is when a highly creative person becomes a successful entrepreneur.

Culture, The Vision-Shaped Space

The Culture of an organization is a set of beliefs, a way of thinking, a way of allowing, a way of doing, a way of respecting and honoring – it’s the fabric that holds and shapes forward momentum. But, Culture cannot exist in a vacuum. Culture cannot just happen and continue to happen without something constantly supplying and shaping it (The Vision). Also, Culture cannot exist without shaping and influencing something else (Strategy & Creative).

The Vision – Behind the operation of any organization (the daily routines, the returns, the balances, etc.) there is a purpose that pushed the business forward. This purpose never changes.

The Culture – The Culture is the Vision-shaped and Vision-influenced space in which the Strategy and Creative can thrive. It is the intangibles in the environment.

The Strategy – In order to fulfill the vision, methods need to be implemented (hire staff, lease an office, launch an advertising campaign)

The Creative – For the Strategy to be relevant, valuable and engaging, it needs to be packaged and implemented in creative ways (an impressive compensation package, an office with a view, a mobile and Facebook marketing campaign targeted at the 18-25 year old’s who live in southern California)

The Culture fosters the Strategy & Creative, and ensures that the Vision is property executed.

Takeaway – Alignment can be more effective and precise if the organization’s Culture is continually reassessed. The Vision can then have a greater level of impact on the way it’s implemented.

VSC Idea Management™

VSC Idea Management™ is a open model for managing the onset, development and execution of ideas; whether they are events, products, systems, or campaigns.

It can be applied in advertising campaigns, corporate planning and systems, business initiatives, new market penetration, product development, cost reduction, goal setting, and entrepreneurial ventures.

The VSC Architecture™ questions and notes are intentionally broad to encompass the wide spectrum of nuances that are unique to industries, challenges and opportunities. And, the model is structured using three variables; Vision (Why), Strategy (How), and The Creative (What).

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Characteristics of a Problem As Ideas

Smaller sets are manageable – whether they are people, projects or things. We’re able to see them in their entirety. We understand the dynamics, processes, resources and forces involved. And we have a greater and more intimate control over the smaller sets.

A trip is seemingly shorter and manageable when frequent stops are part of the journey.

When problems arise, they often present themselves as a complex cacophony of stuff that must be timely addressed and resolved. To navigate through a problem, we need to first understand the territory that makes up a problem, then begin to look at the individual characteristics of the problem to generate solutions.

When problems arise, any of the following characteristics are creating the problem:

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