Ideation space. The optimal environment where you form ideas or thoughts, where dreams crystalize, desires are birthed, problems are solved, and creativity blossoms. A place where your senses are heightened as you connect deeply with your inner motivations and interests, and block out external distractions. Purposefully spending time in this space requires disconnecting from the daily demands of the urgent and immediate, to connect with the important and meaningful. It involves moving from the emotions of the moment, to reflecting on the underlying values and beliefs that govern your life. Time spent in your ideation space can rejuvenate you to become more productive, focused, and innovative.
But what you do after you’ve spent time in your ideation space makes all the difference. Do you move forward, carefully clutching the thoughts produced during that time like they are priceless pearls to be inlaid to a majestic setting, or the inspiration to Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel? Or are your warm thoughts quickly dampened as if hit by a cold blast of artic air. You must protect the ideas and insights you’ve gained and look for the opportunity to apply them, to test them, to turn them into reality. You must take action as a result of your time in your ideation space.
The ideation space for Max Levchin (co-founder of PayPal) is his company named HVF, short for Hard Valuable Fun. He considers it the intellectual outlet for all the ideas that pop up in his brain. The team focuses on leveraging data collected through low cost sensors, wireless broadband, and advances in distributed computing and storage, to develop value added applications. One of their latest products is an app called Glow, which crunches and analyzes vast quantities of data to provide information and insights about women’s bodies; providing them with the optimal timing for conception and enabling them to make appropriate decisions about their reproductive health.
Marc Benioff, CEO and founder of Salesforce.com is energized by being around customers and other creative people. They stimulate his thinking and get him to ask the right questions. Benioff believes that the quality of his questions on a topic directly correlate to the quality of his innovation. Like Andy Grove, he believes that “only the paranoid survive,” and is thus constantly thinking about inventions for the future, even if it means ditching something he’s started, and beginning again.
Like individuals, teams also have an ideation space. This is where they become more productive; think out of the box; and find new ways to solve old problems, innovate and challenge the status quo. Visionary leaders ensure that they provide the right environment for ideation, prioritize time for the team to engage in this practice, and take action on the outputs from this engagement. This means creating the right setting for collaboration on projects, or for casual discussions that morph into creative brainstorming. The aesthetics of the workspace, use of color, furniture style, textures, sunlight and exterior view all play a key role; along with the ability to capture and find the connections between ideas, issues, and problems. Sometimes it involves creating a lab to model or diagram new ideas; and at other times its just getting the team out of their normal environment into a different space will spark different ideas.
As a leader, how are you creating the right ideation space for your team? How are you providing the right environment for them to think from a different perspective, to test ideas that may become game changers for your organization? How can you set the stage for them to be more creative, and to solve problems? Having an ideation space is an investment in your team members as individuals and as a collective group. It could be a “go to” meeting spot, but more effectively, it’s part of their daily work atmosphere, so that they can integrate the problem solving process into their normal routine. You can involve them in the process of designing their work space, of developing their work processes and seeing their ideas come to life. Find ways to provide “rewards” for new ideas even if they aren’t feasible, but to simply get the team into the mode of thinking differently. This will form the foundation of coming up with the ones that will be very successful.
And finally, model the behavior that you want them to exhibit. Think about your own optimal ideation space and share what that looks like with the team. Talk about what it takes to stimulate your own thought process and encourage them to do the same. Discuss the benefits of spending time in this space so that everyone understands it is a priority. Enjoy your ideation space.
Photo Courtesy of Pejman Parvandi [FLICKR]