ideas newblack smlThe phrase: “..............” are the new black is to say that something has become trendy, stylish and in-fashion. To say ‘Ideas are the new black’ is only half the story.

If we’re talking buzzwords, then really it’s the word ‘innovation’ that you see everywhere - from conference topics to Government funding priorities, marketing taglines, hackathons and pitch fests. While the word ‘innovation’ is the flavor of the month, ‘ideas’ have been around since the beginning of time. Maybe we need to think of ideas as being the building blocks of innovation, the slightly eccentric cousin - because if you think about it, ideas are dime a dozen and not all ideas are good, in fact some are downright bad.

So, if raw ideas have little intrinsic value, what’s the fuss? Ideas, and more broadly creativity, is a valuable asset essential to the continuous changes and improvements of our everyday lives. Without ideas, change does not happen, progress is not made, and our lifestyle and society can become stagnant. More specifically, ideas play a huge role within business, from product development to marketing and process improvement.

So how do we harness the power of creative thinking and idea generation?

1. Ideas should exist in a framework

Coming up with ideas should be part of an organisation’s systems, processes and decision-making. We all know that rare but euphoric moment when you have a sudden brainwave and come up with a fantastic idea, well it shouldn’t be left to chance. However, sometimes we can experience writer’s block which can result in the idea making process being frustrating and daunting; especially during a time crunch.

Regular brainstorming sessions can be one simple way to stimulate new ideas. The theory of brainstorming was popularised in 1953 by Alex Osborn. Osborn recommends doing brainstorming in groups of twelve with participants that have different levels of experience and knowledge. The objective of brainstorming is to start with a theme or problem and collect all of the ideas and solutions that are spontaneously contributed by the participants.

After a brainstorming session you will probably discard the majority of the suggested ideas. This is not necessarily a bad thing. These discarded ideas can always be used to solve other problems or can be used as a building block to create other ideas.

It is also important to not over analyse or stress during the idea creation process, try and let your train of thought flow and see where it takes you. Numerous successful ideas once would have been considered inconceivable and unrealistic. You have to put yourself into Leonardo Da Vinci’s shoes who between the years of 1452-1519 was credited with conceiving incredible ideas such as: the helicopter, parachute, clocks and scuba diving gear. All of these ideas would have been considered absolutely ludicrous at the time but are now seen as somewhat generic inventions.

2. Ideas don’t always have to be ‘disruptive’

Ideas can also be developments and enhancements on already existing concepts. For example, in 1973 when the mobile phone was created for public use, the idea did not start and finish there. Initially the mobile phone’s sole purpose was to be able to speak to others while not being attached to a wireless phone. Today, the mobile phone has developed and evolved to include things that we now consider essential. Such as, telling the time, instant messaging, mobile internet, calculators, calendars and maps.

3. Validate ideas

Ideas are only worthwhile if they can be executed. How easy is it to use? Remember, usability drives adoption. What are the financial implications? What are the benchmarks? Who will take ownership of the implementation? Is there a clear road-map and strategy for execution? What is the ROI?

While ideas and more specifically ‘innovation’ seem to be the new black, they are really only the beginning. Without a clear organisational framework for identifying, evaluating, testing and implementing ideas; they have little real value for an organisation.

About Lighthouse Business Innovation Centre
Lighthouse has a strong track record of supporting entrepreneurs, researchers and inventers on the path from concept to commercialisation. Since July 2008, Lighthouse has worked with over 990 distinct enterprises and provided group and peer based services to over 3400 enterprises and individuals. For over five years Lighthouse has successfully delivered business advice, education, mentorship and networking opportunities to help these businesses commercialise their ideas and grow their companies. Lighthouse also delivers programs such as the ACT Microcredit Program for the ACT Government. Visit for more information.