All Empires are Empires of Ideas

Hugh MacLeod absolutely nails it again with his business card for Joi Ito:

New products, new services and new ways of doing things are all fundamentally about ideas. That is why innovation management is really idea management.

Jeffrey Phillips addresses this same point in a terrific post called Ideas are a Commodity. He talks about how often ideas seem to be ‘in the air’, so that they occur to multiple people at the same time. If this is the case, then ideas are a commodity – and the critical issue is not who has the great ideas, but rather who implements them most effectively. Here is how he summarises his argument:

1. An abundance of ideas is less important than a refinement process
2. Ideas are everywhere, and abundant. Processes are much less proficient
3. Many people are prospecting the same needs and opportunities as you are
4. Since many people are prospecting and ideas are abundant, the winners will be the people who can refine and market ideas effectively
5. At the end of the day, no one really cares where your idea came from, or how it was refined, as long as it meets a need that an important set of customers have. The backstory is always interesting and can become part of the mythos of the product, but is far less important than solving the right problem or challenge at the right time.

Consequently, if we’re going to build our own empires of ideas, we need great ideas, but more importantly, we need a method for processing and executing ideas. And we need to be able to get the ideas to spread.

Generate ideas.

Select and test ideas.

Get ideas to spread.

That’s idea management, and that’s innovation. If you get good at it, you can build an empire.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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