“In most organizations, innovation isn’t hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing the good ideas already there. It’s not an idea problem; it’s a recognition problem.”
I like this observation from David Burkus in the HBR a couple years ago.
There can be a lot of friction when ideas move from conception to execution. The mindset needed to vet and evaluate ideas is fundamentally different than either the mindset needed when coming up with ideas or the mindset needed when executing ideas.
Walt Disney famously thought of those three mindsets as three distinct personalities: the Dreamer, the Realist, and the Spoiler. According to my friend (and Disney alum) Paul Williams at Idea Sandbox, Walt Disney treated ideas as progressing sequentially through those three compartmentalized stages.
The Dreamer mentality specializes in blue sky thinking without constraints, the Realist mentality puts practical structure to the ideas, and the Spoiler asks the hard questions and kicks the tires. We need all three mindsets. But we need those mindsets at the right time and in the right way.
As Paul Williams put it:
“When we brainstorm alone and in groups – too often – we tend to fill the room with a Dreamer or two, a few Realists, and a bunch of Spoilers. In these conditions dream ideas don’t stand a chance.”
To draw lines between those mindsets even clearer, Walt Disney apparently dedicated different physical rooms to each mindset. These rooms helped prompt what mindset was required at each stage. They helped ensure that innovation remained both creative and practical.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years:
“Culture of Innovation” January 2018
“Open Innovation” August 2013
“Innovation Funnel” March 2011