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Business Creativity & Innovation

Innovation – There’s a head in my shed, starting out from scratch

Many fledgling businesses do actually start out from a shed at the bottom of the garden. Hewlett Packard started this way and many other technological breakthroughs too (remember Marconi?). The shed is, however, just a metaphor for that inappropriate and often cluttered place that we find ourselves in with our good ideas. We are simply a 'head in a shed'!

It does not matter whether you are a lone inventor who really does have a shed at the bottom of their garden or you work for a large organisation and your 'shed' is your office or laboratory. You have the same problems either way.

Take a look at this news article. The student in question is obviously talented but so what? She has very neatly illustrated our problem but in reverse. We are so familiar with the appearance of our shed, its contents and immediate surroundings that we see nothing else. We need a fresh perspective, new glasses (ditch the rose tinted ones) and a new mode of thinking. To go back to the first article in this newsletter and the concept of putting animals in places where they are not supposed to go – we have an elephant in our shed with us. It is an idea that has barged in and seems too big and well formed to be moved. We must replace it with a giraffe, something more suited to the marketplace, but how? And why a giraffe?

To continue using metaphors for a moment, the elephant is the easy option. Our minds often conjure up ideas that our egos build up into great and unbeatable business opportunities. These then take over our lives and we try to turn them into reality at all costs. These have barged into our lives like a stampeding elephant into our shed. In the world of inventors, elephants are ten a penny and we find them difficult to shake off. The giraffe is altogether more elegant and not so common, but how do we replace one by the other?

Here is a list of questions that we might ask ourselves:

  1. Do I really want to do this or am I just running away from something else?
  2. Is my idea well formed?
  3. Is this really different, does it solve a problem, has it been done before?
  4. Do I know what I am talking about, do others get it when I tell them about my idea(s)?
  5. Do I really understand the target environment/marketplace?
  6. Do I wish to retain ownership, am I willing to share?
  7. Have I sought views/opinions from others?
  8. How will I put this into practice/production?
  9. Have I got the right skills?
  10. Have I/we got the right environment?

Unlike the case of the disappearing car in the news article, you should now be more aware of what you are trying to do. Your grey elephant should have turned into something more elegant and more well formed. Why not take a look at some past newsletters and use some creative techniques to help investigate your new ideas in case you have missed something?

Good luck with your transformation!

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