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.
Copyright 2015, Priscilla Archangel
Learn more about Max Levchin at www.hvflabs.com
Read more about Marc Benioff in the February 1, 2015 issue of Fortune here.
Palmer is very luckey. Really. His last name is Luckey. At the age of 22, he’s also one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30, and founder of Oculus VR. His company is developing virtual reality technology and was recently purchased by Facebook for $2 billion, even though the product is still in prototype stage and not making any money yet. Luckey’s goal is to make virtual reality affordable for mass market consumption and to integrate it into our everyday lives. Mark Zuckerberg is obviously a believer and thinks it will become a mode of communication with a magnitude similar to television or telephones. With a net worth of $500 million Palmer is the youngest self-made multi-millionaire.
Luckey was home-schooled, and from an early age immersed himself in playing videogames and watching science fiction movies, which led to his interest in virtual reality. He began to collect and modify VR hardware and had the opportunity to work with a VR pioneer and expert, where he honed his skills. Communicating with online enthusiasts led to a connection with some heavy hitters in the software and gaming industry. This in turn led to promotion of his prototype by John Carmack, a well-known programmer, and to his first investment from Brendan Iribe, Chief Product Officer of a gaming company. Next came a successful Kickstarter campaign where he raised $2.4 million within a month, and the company took off from there.
Realizing that he lacked the requisite skills to lead the company, Luckey hired Iribe as his CEO, and Carmack as his CTO. He now spends his time promoting the product, doing research, and attracting new talent. He admits that he’s not good at managing people, but he is good at getting people to work with him.
Recognize Your Limitations
For all of Luckey’s innovation and persistence in pushing this technology forward, his recognition of his limitations is commendable. He knew he lacked the skillset to run the company and instead found someone else with the necessary capabilities to do so. He pushed his ego aside and “found a strength.” Many of his coworkers on Oculus’ engineering team in Menlo Park, California, don’t even know who he is.
Luckey is an interesting contrast to the many budding entrepreneurs who show up on Shark Tank, the reality TV show where individuals pitch a panel of 5 multi-millionaires/billionaires to secure funding for their inventions. They are often so caught up in the excitement of their new product that they fail to realize that it may be difficult to market, lack demand, or it’s not scalable, and they don’t want to take advice from the sharks (who obviously do know how to be successful in business). Often these entrepreneurs lack the requisite strengths to succeed in business, but don’t want to listen to those who do have the strengths.
Pause for a moment and identify an area of your personal or professional life where you’re stuck. You’ve been trying to start a project or develop a plan, but you keep running into a wall. The issue may be that you don’t have the complete suite of skills necessary to accomplish it. You knew it would be challenging but, because you lacked the budget to purchase the services, or you thought the missing skills weren’t that critical, you hoped you could somehow figure it out or learn on-the-job.
Well the reality is that while there are some areas where we can develop competencies because they align with our strengths; in other areas we will never develop sufficient strengths to be viewed as extremely capable. We all have significant weaknesses in several areas. And certain weaknesses are difficult to learn or be trained in. When we don’t have sufficient aptitude or ability in these areas, and when they’re crucial to our business success, this can result in failure.
The better strategy is to readily recognize the competencies you need, and be creative in your approach to “find a strength.” Find someone who has the capabilities that you lack. Find someone who will complement you. Team up and collaborate with others. Find someone who has a similar passion and values, but who needs your strengths to accomplish his or her goals as well. The quicker you recognize your need and take action, the quicker you’ll get unstuck, and be able to move forward with your initiatives. You’ll ultimately save time, money and great frustration.
So my final challenge to you is, do what you do well, but don’t start a project unless you have the right tools to finish it.
Read more about Palmer Luckey in the January 19, 2015 edition of Forbes here.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This often quoted statement has been attributed to a variety of people (including Albert Einstein), but it provides a good motivation to begin your new year.
With the beginning of 2015 many people are thinking about New Year’s resolutions. What do they want to accomplish this year? What do they want to do differently? Even for those who swear off such annual declarations (many of which are only kept for a month or two), most people still take the time to pause and consider what they want to experience in the New Year. Whether or not you advocate setting resolutions, it is important to periodically assess your activities to make sure they’re properly focused to support accomplishing your objectives.
So take an insanity check. This is the time to evaluate your personal, professional and organizational strategies and make the necessary adjustments to ensure not only progress, but attainment of your goals. In what areas are you sticking to the same plan, but expecting different results? What isn’t working…yet? Where are you or your organization struggling? Where are you and others frustrated? Here are several keys to your insanity check.
The change initiatives you have started may take time to build momentum until you actually see visible progress. You’re laying the groundwork for improvement, building a foundation, and driving beliefs and values that will spill over into behavioral changes. You may be personally impatient, or stakeholders may be pushing you for quick results. But make sure your plan is solid and that you’re on track in following it. Stopping or pausing will undermine your momentum and you’ll almost literally have to start over. So keep pushing, and build momentum, your goal is in sight.
Pull The Lever
Identify the critical lever for change and focus on it. This critical lever is at the center of the problem, and supports and reinforces what is not working. Like a house of cards, if you pull it, everything that it supports will collapse, and that may be a good thing. Pulling the lever may require repositioning your team, changing your structure, developing a different strategy, or shifting your own leadership style.
Time is one of the most valuable resources you have, so use it wisely. Rather than succumb to the many demands on your time, control how you spend it by prioritizing those activities that add value to what you’re trying to accomplish. I admit that I can get caught up reading business books and articles that are really interesting, aren’t necessarily relevant to the project that I’m working on. , so I have to refocus myself as well. Determine what activities add the most value; find the ones that are really drivers of significant change, and adjust your time accordingly.
Deeply embedded problems require tough decisions. You must be willing to let go of people, processes, or products that you previously invested in, but now are not providing sufficient return. Further delaying these decisions means that you’re expending and wasting valuable time in areas that won’t payoff. You likely know what you have to do, but you’re avoiding the unpleasantness of doing it. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the positive outcomes.
Move your people to positions where they can add more value, or provide a bridge for them to transition outside the organization where they can find a better suited opportunity. If they’re not delivering, they typically know it and are feeling some level of stress related to that. Avoiding the obvious issue only makes the pain worse over time.
Your team or customers will tell you the processes that aren’t working (if you don’t already know it). Set an aggressive and almost impossibly quick timetable by which they need to be fixed or eliminated. Others will thank you for it and be relieved that you finally addressed the problem.
Unprofitable products or services draw resources from the rest of the organization and literally pull others down with it. Think of a rose bush that through careful pruning of dead or unfruitful branches enables the remainder of the bush to receive the necessary nutrients to bloom beautifully. Such products and services may have a legacy with the organization, or be a favorite of some leader, but culling them quickly will add value to the remainder of the organization.
Remember…working harder on a bad plan doesn’t make the plan good. Doing the right thing at the wrong time won’t achieve the desired results. Smart moves at the right time are key to getting what you want.
Picture courtesy of Google Images
Copyright 2014 Priscilla Archangel