How to turn crazy ideas into feasible solutions (1/2)

If you want to generate creative solutions, you’ll have to be prepared to embrace crazy and provocative ideas. After all, it is often those weird, impossible and outrageous suggestions that form the starting point for truly innovative solutions.

During brainstorming sessions, participants are often encouraged to come up with crazy ideas. Sharing wild ideas helps to create a fun, relaxed atmosphere where people feel free to speak their minds. Wild ideas spark our imagination. And sharing them triggers our ego. Participants love to outdo each other with silliness and craziness.

What many people do not know, however, is that generating crazy ideas is not enough. After all, at the end of the session, you want at least one novel and feasible idea that you can carry out. Many people find it extremely difficult to turn crazy ideas into useful ideas. But this process doesn’t have to be a struggle. In this article, I’ll share some simple methods you can use to transform provocative ideas into realistic ones in the blink of an eye.

Example
Imagine you’re a manager who has been assigned to solve a tough internal problem. You have to find a solution for the fact that many young talented employees leave to start working for the competitor. The cause of the troubling situation is known. Your salaries are in line with the market, but your biggest competitor pays a little more. Simply raising wages is a possibility, but probably not for the long run. You might unintentionally start an arms race that will cost both parties dearly. Instead, you’re looking for a smarter, more sustainable solution. You decide to hold a brainstorm session with some colleagues on the subject.

In a crazy mood, one of your colleagues calls out:
“If an employee threatens to resign, we will kidnap a family member and demand that he/she stays.”

This looks like a useless idea at first hand. It’s creative for sure, but also unrealistic and illegal. Luckily, there are several ways to transform this outrageous suggestion into realistic ideas. Let’s look at the methods you can use, one by one.


Method 1. Find the concept

Using concepts is a powerful way to find more ideas.

Step 1. Extract the concept
What is the concept (the leading thought) behind the idea? Often there are multiple concepts to be found. Try to map them all, and then choose the one that appeals to you the most.

The idea
“If an employee threatens to resign, we will kidnap a family member and demand that he/she stays.”

Possible concepts

  • Pressurise an employee to stay
  • Involve family members to retain employees
  • Convince an employee to stay for other reasons than his own (financial) interest
  • Perform ludicrous action to ensure that an employee returns to the company
  • Act proactively to prevent employees from resigning

Step 2. Pick a concept and generate new ideas
Choose the concept that appeals to you the most and create alternatives.

Selected concept
“Act proactively to prevent employees to resign”

New ideas

  • Reward good performances with a small personal gift, e.g. a book, theatre voucher or a beloved sweet. (An unexpected gift has an emotional value and can lead to loyalty towards the company)
  • Invest in team building. (If you have a wonderful team, and there is a great company culture, you are less likely to switch to a different company)
  • Reward employees for their dedication, regardless of their performance. (Making employees feel important and valued can compensate for a lower salary)
  • etc.


Method 2. Use the benefits

Investigate the positive aspects of the idea and utilize them to solve your problem.

Step 1. List all benefits
Write down all aspects that have a positive influence on solving the problem.

The idea
“If an employee threatens to resign, we will kidnap a family member and demand that he/she stays.”

Benefits

  • Employees want to continue working at your company (to make sure it ends well for their family)
  • Employees want to keep you happy and don’t leave the company (as long as you keep their family member hostage)
  • Employees are no longer worried about a higher salary (they have more important things on their mind)
  • Employees are afraid of the consequences of leaving the company
  • Employees are very aware of the benefits of staying
  • Social pressure (from other family members) to stay
  • The kidnapped family member can work (and make money for us) during the kidnapping

Step 2. Pick one benefit and generate new ideas
Choose the benefit that you find most interesting. Think of realistic alternative ways to achieve this benefit (and to solve the problem).

Selected benefit
“Social pressure (from other family members) to stay.”

New ideas

  • Invest in the company’s ‘one big family’ feeling (you want to stay part of it)
  • Invest in colleague friendships (through team building activities)
  • Set up a platform where colleagues can give each other positive social pressure, by stimulating people to take up personal challenges (like learning a new skill or running a specific project). Once employees have started something new, they’re more like to finish it.
  • An anonymous tip line where you can ‘snitch’ colleagues you suspect of switching. These colleagues can be subtly approached with the message that there are alternatives options within the organization.

 

In my next article, I’ll share two other techniques you can use to turn crazy ideas into a feasible solutions.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Roo
    Reply

    Dude…I have the perfect solution for all failing movie theaters during the coronavirus pandemic and no place to put it online for the right people to see. The answer lies in their parking lots. Every theater has enormous parking lots and with a little ingenuity and small budget, they could EASILY turn their parking lots into drive in movie theaters. There are even people who offer screen viewing services with an inflatable movie screen, as well as providing sound to your car radio. Leave the concessions part of the theater open, or setup a temporary outdoor one, inflate a couple screens and setup temporary bordering structures for each screen showing a film. It would not cost alot, people would remain a safe distance from each other and ticket sales continue. It’s a pretty simple fix. It all starts with those ENORMOUS parking lots that most theaters already have.

    • René de Ruijter
      Reply

      Hi Roo, thanks for sharing! That’s certainly a great way to deal with the new situation for many cinemas. I’ve seen several drive-in cinema initiatives pop up already, and in Rotterdam there even was a ‘drive-thru museum‘!

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