Taming Blue Sky Ideation: Collecting Ideas that are Both Novel and Valuable

Blue Sky IdeationI frequently hear from some clients the desire or need to hold “general” or “blue sky” campaigns. “We don’t want to limit them.” “Anything goes.” “Just submit the idea and we will decide if we can make it happen.”

In two blog entries, I provide guidelines to help you go broad, avoid pitfalls, and collect ideas that are valuable and relevant to your organization.

First, resist the urge to neglect the problem statement. The most common pitfall when running a “general” or “blue sky ideation” campaign is to assume this means you no longer need constraints or a problem statement.

The crowd craves a problem, a puzzle. The absence of a problem does not inspire. It does not tease the mind, or spark creativity.

Constraints, on the other hand, present a puzzle. The puzzle is what drives your crowd to get creative and generate the valuable and novel ideas you seek. Entrepreneurs testify that limited resources are actually the source of their strategic advantage. The startup workstyle, under extreme constraints, demands creativity, and thus drives novelty. Constraints breed creativity.

When you have the temptation to remove all constraints, reframe your thinking to focus on the nature of the constraints you select. High-level constraints, deriving from the mission, vision, or purpose of your organization cast a wide net. Constraints deriving from pre-determined strategies and tactics of your organization result in a more prescriptive campaign.  

My recommendation for building a broad but useful problem statement: draw from your organization’s mission, vision, or purpose. This ensures you’re collecting relevant and useful ideas that are valuable to your organization, while still keeping the scope broad and inclusive.

Consider a city called Skyville.

Mission: To promote a prosperous life for the residents of the city.

Strategy: Revitalize the city center.

Broad problem statement: Our goal is for Skyville to be the greatest place for you to live, work, play and do business.  How can we help you prosper in city of Skyville?

Prescriptive problem statement: To promote prosperity for you and your neighbors, the city revitalization project must match your needs and your vision for our shared city center.  What does a revitalized city center look like to you?

Once you have your problem statement or call to action, it is time to set up a campaign that promotes idea generation. Check back next week for tips on how to help your crowd generate fresh and novel ideas.

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Whitney Bernstein, Innovation Architect at IdeaScale

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