PLEASE, please stop ideating!


PLEASE, please stop ideating!



My mum is an unbelievably good cook. Growing up, I remember coming home from school and asking, “What’s for dinner?” She regularly said that she was yet to decide. You see, she’s one of those cooks who doesn’t need a recipe or even any real planning. She would grab, say, a chicken and then make the rest up. She used lots of spices, large varieties of vegetables, legumes, diverse grains, the list goes on – she just somehow knew what would work with what and how it would all turn out. She would busily work away in the kitchen and a couple of hours later, our plates would be full of amazing food. It was different every night but it was always delicious.

But until my mum took the tray out of the oven or spooned the food out of the pot or wok, all that existed was a bunch of ingredients in varying stages of ‘development’, and usually, an emerging, beautiful smell emanating from the kitchen.

What does this have to do with innovation? Well, ideas can be just like my mum’s cooking! The ideas which end up creating enormous amounts of value for organisations are developed, not created in an instant. Ideation is a process.

One of the reasons you don’t see light bulb images amongst Orange Squid’s marketing or training materials is that (apart from them being cliché and therefore ironically not innovative!) they give the false impression that ideas ‘happen’ in a lightbulb moment. Actually, the embryos of ideas ‘happen’ in a moment, but real value is built into ideas as they are developed: ideation is a process.

Unfortunately, what this typically leads to, is people in organisations coming out of ideation (or equally, when simply ‘assessing’ any idea) and feeling as though “the idea(s) aren’t really that good; none of them really ‘grab’ me!” because they have unrealistic expectations that ideas in their embryonic form will immediately be demonstrably amazing!

This in turn tends to lead to a perceived ‘need’ to keep ideating – to wait for that ‘light bulb’ to amaze them before their very eyes. What they would be far better off doing however, is breaking out of the ideation loop and starting to develop some of the ideas which show potential to solve the problem or meet the challenge which was taken into ideation. Dare I say it again: ideation is a process. Brilliant ideas look brilliant after they have been developed.

So, the next time you are looking at potentially value-creating ideas in their embryonic form, rather than scrutinising their value before they are at all robust, spend time building robustness into them and developing the ideas further. To do this:

  1. Augment the ideas (contact us for a free template which will help you do this!)
  2. Set key value hypotheses
  3. Improve the ideas on dimensions which enhance the value (based on the hypotheses – sometimes this is where some extra ideation can help)
  4. Enter the test and learn phase (discarding ideas as hypotheses are disproved and potential pivots have been exhausted)

Whatever you do though, don’t spin your wheels coming up with – well, just more ideas. An uncooked and yet-to-be spiced chicken might not yet look appetising, but that is no reason to throw it away and now spend more money buying a side of lamb (which will also initially be uncooked and unappetising)!

If you would like help to develop great ideas using a best-practice approach (or with anything else innovation or strategy related) I’d love to hear from you at But whilst I can certainly help with innovation, unfortunately, my mum’s cooking skills were not passed on.

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