We get asked all the time about how we come up with new and fresh ideas. It’s a pretty simple process that has proven to be pretty effective over the years. This can be useful in any organization or scenario, whether you are launching ideas, or just looking to make sound decisions. Here you go:

1. Create- we spend a ton of time just brainstorming, which is obviously a very important part of the process. The more ideas on the board, the more opportunities for one of those to make it through the process. For example, over the years at Catalyst, we had probably 300-350 programming ideas every year for our October conference. And creative meetings are “yes and” meetings, not “but or”. Important!

2. Criticize – every idea, in order to stay in the process, has to be critiqued and criticized significantly. This is key in order to make sure you don’t spend tons of time chasing too many rabbits and driving everyone crazy with lots of good ideas but nothing ever happening. And make sure everyone doesn’t take things personal- criticizing an idea is much different than criticizing the person who came up with the idea. It’s not personal. 

3. Authenticate- this phase is all about the point leader being willing to vulnerably offer up their ideas and amendments on the alter of authentication. Make sure if you're the leader that has the most influence, that you don't leverage that power of authority or title to "inadvertantly" get your idea through the process. Your words are heavy, and your ideas, even if bad, can be pushed through the system without being authenticated. So allow yourself and those around you to have a strong authenticity buzzer that can be pushed. We all have our pet ideas and projects, but everyone's ideas have to ultimately weight the same. This is a difficult step for most of us to learn and live out. 

4. Optimize- anything that makes it pass the criticize and authenticate phase has to be built on. In some ways, this is a second and third wave of innovation. Most of the time the original idea will turn into something that looks totally different. This is really the essence of putting icing on the cake. If you are the leader, at this point in the process your idea may be totally changed and enhanced from what it was originally. You have to be OK with this!

5. Validate- every idea has to be validated- financially, operationally, personnel wise, and direction/vision related. Lots of big ideas appropriately get held up in this phase, either to be released later or put on the shelf for good. Conversely, lots of bad ideas make it through this phase because of bad systems and/or leaders who aren’t willing to say no.

6. Execute- it all comes down to getting things done. Hard work is time consuming and tiring. And actually putting ideas into action is tremendously difficult and draining. We take tremendous pride in execution on ideas. If it has gone through the entire process and made it to this point, the idea deserves the attention and focus to make sure it happens. And if every level of the Idea process grid was correctly put in motion, the idea is probably going to be good!

This blog orginally appeared on March 10, 2016 on Brad Lomenick's blog here

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