Most of your future revenue will come from products or processes you haven’t yet invented. This is the refrain all of us in business have heard repeatedly of late. It’s a truth that’s both concerning and compelling, mainly because of the focus it puts on the creative process. If a business is only as valuable as its next big idea, how can its leaders facilitate the necessary innovation?
At Nureva, we believe it begins with ideation – the work of generating, sharing and refining ideas at the extreme front end of an innovation process. And to deliver next-generation solutions, it makes sense that teams work with next-generation tools. I’m advocating a transition from a paper-based creative process to a digital one. The benefits in efficiency, flexibility and related measures are consistent with those we’ve seen in the analog-to-digital transformation happening elsewhere. But digital tools and cloud-based workflow also bring two essential advantages to the ideation process – persistence and immersion.
Meaning from persistence
In my experience, innovation is most often a product of persistence, and I’m sure that conjures up mental images. Stories abound about the dogged determination that carries inventors and entrepreneurs to a real or imagined finish line, often expressed as a story of plugging away even in the face of failure. But there’s another kind of persistence and that’s the persistence of ideas. When it comes to fueling innovation, taking time to consider (and reconsider) the ideas represented by images, words, sketches and more is what informs, inspires and ultimately leads to something new.
A simple and common example of this kind of persistence is in the early elementary classroom, a space dominated by colors, shapes, letters and numbers. These are the concepts that form the basis of learning, and extended engagement with them helps students internalize their meaning and understand the connections between them. In other words, the persistence of these items facilitates understanding.
At Nureva, we believe the same holds true for all thinkers on a much more elevated level, maybe more so in creative processes. For it’s in examining and reexamining a challenge or a problem, observing it from different angles and attempting to tease potential from half-formed solutions, that originators most often strike gold. While great ideas are often raw and spontaneous, real innovation requires a healthy dose of inquiry and deep consideration to ensure their meaningful application. And it’s persistence that paves that transition from inspiration to consideration to creation and innovation.
Space for immersion
The classroom example for young learners also demonstrates the importance of physical spaces. Particularly in K–3 classrooms, students aren’t just learning concepts off a screen or a page. They’re immersed, and on a grand scale. Core concepts are reinforced visually in large relief all around the room, so no matter where students turn, their brains find food for thought – and can’t resist consuming. It’s a simple recipe for deeper inquiry.
At Nureva, our own experience confirms the power of immersion. Starting the company, Dave and I had a clear idea of the kind of technology development we wanted to pursue and for what ends. But we also knew those goals might be achieved in myriad ways. So early on we pursued an ideation exercise to determine open areas targeting a particular customer group. We engaged our team in a multistep process that began with each of us working alone, submitting ideas offline. Then we used large spaces to display, compare, bucket, assess and combine all of those ideas at once. We quite literally surrounded ourselves with possibilities.
By seeing everything at once in a big, visual space, we could clearly identify avenues where there was a plethora of possibilities and those where there were fewer. We could pinpoint the ideas that were truly unique – often compellingly so. We could see overlap and where one idea built on another. We drew mental and physical connections that helped us see opportunity and define areas to pursue. The process and the environment helped us narrow choices and make a decision.
And soon, we saw our future.
As we and others have learned, there are clear advantages to a creative process where a lot of information is visible to everyone in a space, whether it is a meeting room or a team space. Otherwise, the benefits of immersion and persistence are absent. Participants see details, but not context. They rely on memory to make higher-level links. Their outlook is unavoidably swayed, even if only slightly.
Using big spaces as the backdrop for collaborative ideation allows more ideas to be explored, from more people. We see this in the kinds of teamwork that involve plastering the walls of group spaces with poster paper, images and sticky notes. Large-scale visualization of concepts and problems generate tangible and shared insight. And displaying reams of content at once feeds a more comprehensive view, increasing the likelihood of arriving at better-informed conclusions.
But sticky notes and sheets of paper have challenges of their own. They don’t allow for easy reorganization of content. They create a big-picture view that’s necessarily cobbled together. They fall off the wall! They force the dedication of space for the duration of a project and can create confidentiality concerns in open work areas. They’re difficult to translate into usable, sharable content.
Complementary tools like dry-erase whiteboards similarly enable participants to see only what fits on the surface. Users can’t add or delete info at will, and eventually what’s written has to be erased to accommodate new projects. Capturing and sharing content remains a problem. As with sticky notes and newsprint, contributors have to be in the room to share in the process.
Interactive whiteboards and displays are better, but still limited for intensive ideation. Their digital aspect provides infinite space for information, but often at a fixed size. Again, only a portion of information can be viewed at any given time and review requires scrolling through pages to see everything that’s there.
So what does Nureva bring to the table? For starters, the translation of a proven ideation process into a flexible, digital experience. Combine that with ultra-large scale, and an ideation process that was both legitimized by and often hindered by paper artifacts now just works. And our system takes advantage of the cloud and personal devices, promising to enable in-room and remote collaboration in both traditional and nontraditional spaces. It all adds up to effective, immersive and inclusive ideation – a solid foundation for innovation.
Real-time ideation tools for collaborative teams
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Posted on Jun 11, 2015 11:30:00 AM