High Quality Ideas

A new take on creativity in business

Written by Mikkel B. Rasmussen & Filip Lau

Companies are always on the lookout for new ideas—getting ideas is not the problem. Getting ideas of high caliber, however, is more challenging. Increasingly, companies are developing a more refined sensibility towards ideas and seek so-called “high-quality ideas.” High-quality ideas are bigger ideas that likely will stand both the test of time and have substantial commercial potential. High-quality ideas share five characteristics that at a glance can appear as counterintuitive.

Ideas with the potential of unleashing new growth have been in vogue in corporations for generations. When Alex Osborn popularized the term “brainstorming” in his 1953 book Applied Imagination, he ignited a newfound fascination of creativity and imagination in companies worldwide. Along with this fascination came, over time “workshops,” “Post-Its,” and rules for ideation such as ‘don’t criticize other people’s ideas’. Osborn’s approach to commercial creativity influenced generations. Today a new approach for ideation is gaining traction. This new approach for ideation help companies develop “high-quality ideas.” High-quality ideas are characterized by phrases such as “slow,” “quality over quantity,” and “make use of available resources.” High-quality ideas share five characteristics and some of them are pretty far away from Osborn’s concept of “brainstorming”:

  1. Slow Hunch
    Letting the ideas come to you
    Ideas are neither the result of a deliberate ideation session nor sheer chance, but rather by-products of sustained, often intense, occupation with a subject. This TED talk goes deeper into the topic.

  2. Analytical creativity
    The ideas must come out of the analysis
    Analysis is not only necessary to understand what is going on in the world. Analysis injects dissent and criticism into the ideation process, making the creative process more invigorating.

  3. Bricolage
    Seeing the familiar in a new light
    Thinking of innovation as bricolage (i.e. reusing existing materials to create something new) makes it legitimate to look back when planning for the future, making use of existing knowledge, technology, and ideas to create original solutions.

  4. Quality over quantity
    Generating a few big ideas rather than many small ones
    If the analysis is done right, the overarching insight and argument can be boiled down to one big opportunity, or what we call a ‘“Big Idea’.” And this Big Idea is probably so clear that it will seem relatively straightforward how to seize it. It might be difficult to actually do it, but it should be clear what needs to get done in order to realize this Big Idea—there are likely only a handful of ways to achieve it.

  5. Deep engagement
    Feeling productive during the process
    A Big Idea can only be unfolded and broken down into implementable steps if people from departments within the organization work together to seize the opportunity.

Follow the links above for a more elaborate intro to some of the five characteristics. There are numerous ways to work with high-quality ideas in practice.


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