+ Where's a good place to start to innovate?

Customer touch points. Why? Because being creative without a map is a recipe for wasting time and money. Having a map of our customer touch points, gives us orientation and the ability to apply productive creative thinking to create outstanding results. Start by mapping the obvious activities you do each day, phone calls and email etc. Once you have created a basic map of the major touch points then you can break it down to even more detail.

+ Where can I find unique opportunities to innovate on?

Look for creating touch points that start before and after your existing touch points. Why? Great innovations can happen by looking beyond what you think is your line of work. Icebreaker is a clothing manufacturer for winter fleece products. They looked at their touch points and realised that if they could identify a touch point of where their fleece was coming from they could increase their sustainability message. They created a ‘baa code’ on the garments that once entered on their website identifies the sheep and farm that the fleece comes from. www.icebreaker.com

+ What's a simple idea generation technique that won't be too hard to start with?

Combination & addition is a great technique. Here's why: Applying constructive words to touch points can prompt great ideas. Constructive words include: Stop, Start, Combine, Strengthen, Reduce, Multiply, Substitute, Reverse, Speed up, Slow down, and Modify. Try applying these words to your touch points to see what ideas you generate. What if you combined a meeting with physical activity - a walking meeting? What if you could reduce the time taken in a meeting, how would you do it?

+ what ideation technique works best when we seem to be stuck for a breakthrough?

The elimination technique is great for this situation. Here's why: A touch point or part of a product is never beyond challenge, but because we use them so often we see them permanently set in stone. What would happen if you had to remove a touch point? What if you had no meeting at all? How would you get things done? What if you had to execute the items or actions discussed at the meeting itself? By asking the ‘Challenge it’ questions, we are forced to innovate.

+ WHAT'S A good technique to create an idea when you are put on the spot?

If you can’t think of a new idea consider what could you ‘change’ or substitute that's already existing? For example could you change a face-to-face meeting with a teleconference? Change a boardroom meeting with a corridor meeting? Change an agenda meeting into a brainstorming meeting? The more you look at your touch point the more you realise there are opportunities to challenge and change them to make them better.

+ How do I think outside of the box or use disruptive thinking?

We are creatures of habit, and left to our own devices we will think and behave the same way every day. Fighting this pattern can help us to create new ideas that we would not normally have considered before. The next time you sit down to think of a solution or generate ideas, start with a distraction to generate some unrelated thoughts. Once you have the fresh thoughts you can force yourself to link them to your problem.

+ What are random idea prompts and how do I use them?

A random prompt is anything unrelated to your normal problem solving thining that can help you to prompt new unrealted thoughts. Look around you. Write down the first thing that catches your eye. This is your random prompt. Now write down all of the thoughts that come to you when you think of this object. For example – the first thing I see is a lamp. My first thoughts are: metal,light, bright, dark, on, off, power, electricity, work and Thomas Eddison. Now link those thoughts to the topic area that you want ideas for. How can we make it ‘lighter and brighter’? Imagine there was a famous genius in the room, what would he/she bring to the meeting? Turn everyone on before each agenda item by getting people to stand and shake.

+ How can I find new insights and create new ideas?

Look for painpoints. We might think we’re perfect, but the reality is there will always be something that our clients dislike about us. By finding them and claiming them we can then turn them to our advantage. If a client thinks you’re too expensive how can you reduce the expense for them? Could you add more value to your offering, could you give them a discount for paying upfront? Could you provide them with ways of saving money elsewhere? List your client’s dislikes about your work & creatively turn them to your advantage.

+ When do the best ideas come?

Ideas can come from a formal ideation session or brainstorming yet One of our most creative states is when we are in an Alpha brain wave state. The Alpha brain wave state is seldom achieved when working at our desk, it happens when we are chilled out, calm, relaxing and having fun somewhere away from the office. When we’re at work we’re in a Beta brain wave state which is very logical, rational, linear and frankly not very creative. So if you’ve been working non-stop trying to come up with the big idea, take a break, get outside, do something else and trust the idea will come.

+ I get lots of ideas but keep losing them, what should I do to capture them?

Use a phone. Why? The mind is a weak slave to good ideas and good ideas often come to us seemingly out of nowhere at unexpected times. When an idea comes to you, even if you’re away from work, by using your phone to call your voice mail or text the idea you’ve now saved the idea. When you’re back at work and ready to make the idea a reality, simply listen or read the message.

+ What's a good way to clear the mind to be able to innovate?

Create a mental map. Why? Our mind has so many thoughts that unless we map them, they take up valuable processing space that can stop us from moving on with making our ideas happen. Map your thoughts by doing the following: In the centre of an A3 sheet of paper (in landscape format) write your main thoughts in the centre. Then starting at the one o’clock position draw a branching line from the centre. Write the first sub-topic on the line and then make subsequent branches radiating for this branch with the keywords for the thoughts. Google ‘freemind’ for a free mental map software program.

+ I have ideas but never get around to executing them, what's a good way to make sure I execute?

Create a contract Why? Accountability gets results and by having an accountability partner who asks you how your idea is coming along will force you into action. Create a contract declaring the top 3 ideas you want to realise and then sign your commitment to it and get your accountability partner to witness and sign it. Or use a free service like www.Stickk.com to put some skin in the game (your money). If you don't do what you promise you would do, then Stickk take some of your money and send it to whoever you want as a penalty.

+ How do I measure R.O.I on my innovative thinking?

Track it Why? By knowing how our idea is progressing and the effort that has been involved we can objectively establish how much money and resources have been used and the R.O.I from the activity. Create a spreadsheet that gives your idea a number,tracks the time, energy and resources spent. Analyse the R.O.I during and after completion by looking at areas such as increased sales, decreased breakages, increased testimonials, repeat clients and so on.