Missy Carvin emailed me this week asking if I had any cartoons about Zombie ideas, “those terrible ideas that exist within an organization that never, ever die, just resurface every few years”.
It struck me that there are different types of ideas in organizations. Most time is spent chasing the elusive “Eureka” moment, where the clouds part and an idea appears fully formed. Ideations are staged to encourage this type of idea. Yet, not only are these “Eureka” moments few and far between, they don’t appear in an orderly fashion, just because 90 minutes are scheduled in a room with beanbag chairs.
The vast majority of ideas in an organization fall in between these two extremes, the Eurekas and the Zombies. The real innovation challenge is guiding ideas to a progressively better place.
Last week, a method scientist named Kaj held up a prototype with the word “FAIL” written in Sharpie on the front of it. He said, “I’m glad this idea was a complete failure. Because this idea failed, we were forced to change course entirely and come up with this other idea instead.” And then he pointed to the new product we were in the midst of launching.
I think the art of managing ideas is less about generating new ideas than in managing the ideas already in your organization. Less Zombie, more Phoenix.
As David Kelley at IDEO famously says, you have to “fail faster to succeed sooner.”