Yesterday, I was confronted with one of those moments as a mom. The kids slept long enough for me to have a shower (YAY!) and we were going through our morning routine. I went to change the baby and was surprised that my toddler was quietly playing by himself in the other room. Looking back, this was like one of those moments in the movies where the audience sees what is about to happen, but the character is clueless.
I returned to the living room to find my toddler had pulled out of the hamper the full load of clean clothes that I had been too tired to fold the night before. They were all over the dining room floor and he was happily walking through them saying, “crunchy leaves!”
After I took a few deep breaths (and taking a picture), I asked him to put it all back in the hamper. He did and went on to nonchalantly tell me he was hungry…it was breakfast time after all. In classic mom-style I posted the picture to Facebook. What was really insightful was the comments I received, and that’s what led me to write today.
Some of the comments were:
- Good imagination!
- Love his imagination and creativity!
- Funny and great imagination…but not great for you!
In my effort to maintain composure, I had missed what happened here. A great demonstration of imagination, and actually innovation! Thank you, sane Facebook friends. What my friends didn’t know is that there is more to the story. The rest of the story is what makes this interesting, and applicable to leadership.
A Great Example of Innovation
Most of you probably thought that he just came up with “Crunchy leaves” all on his own. That’s actually not the case, and that’s what makes this a great example of innovation.
I have a video on my phone that he loves to watch of him walking through piles of leaves saying “crunchy leaves,” enjoying the crunch, walking back and forth. He learned this phrase from my husband and me, which had been how we described the experience to him that day.
So…the laundry he’d strewn on the floor today reminded him of the leaves last fall, which led him reenact the “crunchy leaves!” (I will refrain from trying to understand why he needed to reenact the scene this morning with laundry.)
Good news for us as innovators!
You see, my toddler didn’t INVENT something entirely new. He INNOVATED – connecting ideas in a new way and for a new use. Admittedly, I hadn’t ever thought of using my clean clothes as a crunchy leaves simulator.
Many of us expect to sit around a conference room table and receive revelation just by calling it a brainstorming session. That doesn’t happen very often. It’s a much more often a deliberate practice of trying out different connections of already established ideas (like laundry, leaves, and the fun of crunching them).
What questions would you ask?
Recently a friend of mine, Vincent, had the opportunity to have a Q&A with Seth Godin. He asked for some ideas. Here were two that were particularly poignant about innovation. “He says his job is to break things in his company. To what length does he go to be disruptive?” “When he needs to develop creative ideas, what does he do? Does he have a special routine, go to a specific environment, or something else?”
That lead me to wonder…
Have you grappled with these questions of how to come up with great ideas?
Does using the same tool always work to generate ideas?
Really? Are you sure?
What methods do you use besides old fashioned brainstorming?
We would like to help!
Paul, my naturally innovative business partner, has been helping teams see new possibilities for decades. We recently had a former client share with us that Paul’s ideas have stuck with him for years, helping him frame his thinking regularly. We are going to be sharing some of those particularly sticky idea generating methods and ways to setup your environment for good ideas on a webinar soon.
We would love to have you join us!
Getting the Innovative Ideas Your Business Needs
April 13th at 12:00 EST
I hope we can help you develop your next game changing innovation. Sometimes you need to spread some laundry on the floor and walk through some imaginary leaves, but in case that doesn’t work…join us on the webinar.
Speaking of that toddler, I should go see what innovation he’s coming up with now!