How do you generate innovative ideas?

Yesterday’s blog introduced the topic of innovation and how wary people can be of it. Today I’m asking the question – how do you generate innovative ideas?

The development of innovative ideas is often relayed as a Eureka moment – Newton with the apple falling on his head, Art Fry dreaming up post-it notes. However this creative process is usually built upon many hours, or years, of research around the topic. Ideas happen through connection of these knowledge elements which are in our heads from previous experience and research. On top of the millions of ideas in our head that are needed to drive innovative ideas, we are also much more reliant on other people than we perhaps realise. For example, Newton’s work wouldn’t have been recognised if it had not been for the work of other scientists which came before him. Collaboration is a key driver of innovation.

This isn’t a new concept and the Georgians were sharing their ideas in coffee houses a long time before TEDx Talks took off on You Tube. However, the internet and globalisation have hugely accelerated the speed and extent of collaborative potential. It has also allowed a far broader and diverse base on which to share ideas. If you want to innovate, look for diversity.

A great example of a company looking externally for innovation is Volvo. They are currently looking at locusts. They swarm in their 1,000s and never hit each other. Wouldn’t it be great if this expertise could be applied to cars! If you’re interested in how the natural world can disrupt and motivate us, be sure to come along to The Pollination Project Symposium and Workshops – investigating how bees have inspired artists, musicians, writers and conservationists. It’s on Tuesday 14th March from 11am – 4pm.

A final point on generating innovative ideas is that environment is crucial. Having a work space which promotes collaborative working and allows people the room to play with ideas truly drives innovation and productivity. Wandering through the Fountains Learning Centre on our campus is always refreshing – it’s certainly not the traditional image of a library. Students are sat on bean bags and exchanging ideas as a group in open spaces:


So, three pointers on generating innovative ideas:

  1. Collaborate
  2. Diversify
  3. Get up from behind your desk

Hope you enjoyed reading. Tomorrow I’ll be looking at how to fail…fast…and without spending too much money.

This blog is inspired by our Business Insights Lecture series. For more information on public lectures and events delivered by York St John University, add our events calendar to your favourites and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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