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It can be a long slog from initial concept to final product. Even in organizations that pride themselves on rapid iteration and experimentation, most truly novel ideas either stall out at some point in development or lose their originality along the way. How do you defy those odds? By adjusting collaborative behavior to meet the idea wherever it is in its journey from mind to marketplace.
That journey entails four phases: idea generation; concept elaboration through tests or prototypes that flesh out the idea and assess feasibility; internal promotion to get the sponsorship needed to move forward with a product; and implementation, which involves finalizing plans and specifications, creating the product, and delivering it. In my nearly 20 years researching creativity and innovation, I’ve found that as an idea progresses from phase to phase, its collaborative requirements change. (See “The Idea Journey at a Glance.”) Here, we’ll look at how those needs shift and how innovation managers can help people adapt accordingly instead of relying on go-to connections and patterns of behavior.
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If novel ideas moved in a straight line from conception to completion, it would be easier for them to gain traction. However, they often loop back to previous phases or cycle between phases several times, which complicates the journey and stalls progress. When this happens, an idea is likely to be stripped of its novelty so that a more mundane version can move forward with less resistance. Novel ideas are inherently risky. Because they are unusual, they lack strong precedent, and it’s tough to cite clear examples of success. So convincing stakeholders to invest in them can be difficult. Thus, high-potential novel ideas tend to devolve into safer, less inspiring ones that ultimately get the green light.
That’s hardly the stuff of competitive break-throughs. By taking a more adaptive approach to creative collaboration, your organization can increase its odds of bringing truly new ideas to market. Let’s begin by examining the core collaborative needs of each phase of the idea’s journey.1
Sparking Idea Generation
Each new concept originates as a spark of creative inspiration.
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1. J.E. Perry-Smith and P.V. Mannucci, “From Creativity to Innovation: The Social Network Drivers of the Four Phases of the Idea Journey,” Academy of Management Review 42, no. 1 (January 2017): 53-79.
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3. P.V. Mannucci and J.E. Perry-Smith, “‘Who Are You Going to Call?’ Network Activation in Creative Idea Generation and Elaboration,” Academy of Management Journal (April 12, 2021), https://journals.aom.org, forthcoming in print.
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12. Mannucci and Perry-Smith, “‘Who Are You Going to Call?’”
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15. J. Mueller, “Creative Change: Why We Resist It ... How We Can Embrace It” (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017).