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Idea generation is seldom the problem

So, you've decided that its time to get out from under that black cloud your business has been in for the last  two years and start thinking about growth again.  If you're a senior leader or CEO, what do you do next?  If you're like many, you'll gather together a group of important people in your organization and start brainstorming about new growth opportunities for your company, hoping that the great ideas coming out of the session will catapult your organization to a new growth trajectory. 

 

Hmmm.  Not so fast.  For starters, most companies don't lack for good ideas – just ask a randomly selected group of employees and you'll be flooded with suggestions for how the business could be improved.  The dilemma is that many of these are not going to be breakthrough concepts.  To get those, you really need some kind of framework, like the lenses approach we take in MarketBusters or some other structured way to stimulate your thinking.  Blank sheets of paper are terrifying!  Secondly, most senior leaders (with all due apologies) are quite removed from the customer experiences and therefore can come up with stuff that looks good on paper but may not work at all in real life.  Have a look at any series of senior-level decisions to do new things (often with acquisitions) and you'll see what I mean (Bebo, anyone?). 

What senior leaders can do instead is to foster the development of an innovation and growth system in the organization that can take the ideas that are floating around, scale the best of them and commit a convincing set of resources to them so that they actually have a chance to succeed in the marketplace.  The problems senior folks need to address are often legion:  silos, poor resource allocation processes, risk-aversion, negative handling of failures and disappointments, sclerotic budgeting systems, slow decision-making…if you're going to get them focused on growth, those are the things that need to be addressed. 

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