Contributed by Darin Eich, Ph. D.
Google has committed $10 million to fund ideas from individuals that can improve our world. This article will help you to use best practices for idea generating and innovation so that you may submit a better and more well developed idea to increase your chances for a share of the $10 million and better improve the world. We will pull out key parts of the Google application for topics you can generate ideas around and criteria to use to select and develop your ideas. We will also share with you what we have learned from experience not only crowdsourcing ideas but developing a simple idea generating for innovation process you can use to develop and communicate your big idea in a more meaningful way. We have developed and used this process with similar projects that were geared at improving our world, be it eradicating extreme global poverty with the UN, fundraising for the United Way, helping children’s shelters in developing nations, or bettering our environment. These projects all started with a problem, led to questions, continued with ideas, and led to selection and development of the best ideas…just like you can do with the Google Project 10^100.
In a Google news release they described this project in these terms: “Google is announcing as part of its tenth birthday celebration Project 10^100 (pronounced Project 10 to the 100th), a call for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible. For this challenge we are asking our users to send us exciting ideas for ways to improve people’s lives and have committed $10 million to turn up to five of the best ideas into reality. These ideas can be big or small, technology-driven or brilliantly simple – but they need to have impact. We will identify the 100 best ideas and then ask our users to vote on which ideas we should fund. Their votes select the 20 finalists, and then a panel of judges will choose up to five ideas for final funding.” For more information, visit: http://www.project10tothe100.com
If you want to submit an innovative idea for this project where do you start? First, practice innovation best practices. You will have to go about this purposefully with a process or system you use to develop a fine concept. This means generate multiple ideas and then synthesize relevant multiple ideas logically together in the form of a well-developed concept. It is important to capture and store all of these ideas in one place. Also, great innovations are not solitary work. They are the result of collaborations. Involve others to help you generate ideas, develop the concept, validate the concept, and communicate the concept so that is meaningful and memorable. In a free brainreactions.net private brainstorming room you can pose your question, provide background, visuals in the form of a photo or video, and generate ideas. With the free room you can include up to five brainstormers and these brainstormers can not only generate ideas but also vote, select, and sort the best ideas to move forward and develop.
So, how do we come up with a large number of ideas so you can develop a strong concept? First of all, we do it deliberately and purposefully. If you expect a bunch of brilliant ideas to come to you by chance, you are not going to get very far. You have to set out to come up with these ideas; schedule time to do it; plan to do it. Schedule a brainstorm or innovation session time, invite your collaborators, and execute.
An important start to an idea generating for innovation project is to pose important questions that are grounded in a problem or opportunity for innovation. Google’s Project 10^100 offers seven suggested categories and questions:
1. Community: How can we help connect people, build communities and protect unique cultures?
2. Opportunity: How can we help people better provide for themselves and their families?
3. Energy: How can we help move the world toward safe, clean, inexpensive energy?
4. Environment: How can we help promote a cleaner and more sustainable global ecosystem?
5. Health: How can we help individuals lead longer, healthier lives?
6 Education: How can we help more people get more access to better education?
7. Shelter: How can we help ensure that everyone has a safe place to live?
Start by selecting a category that you are passionate about, value, and have knowledge or experience in. Brainstorm many specific problems or opportunities within that category. For instance, on a similar project we picked the “environment” category and then brainstormed solutions to the plastic bag problem as something to dig deeper into with ideas. You can view an example of this plastic bag brainstorm at: http://www.brainreactions.net/brainstorms/1815
This process example that you can see includes a question stimulated from a problem, hundreds generated ideas, collaborated ideas from multiple people, selection and voting of good ideas, and sorting most popular ideas. This simple process is valuable for creating better and more innovative ideas.
When generating ideas it is good to create with criteria in mind. This will help you to create ideas that have a better chance of success because they are grounded in the criteria that have been established. Project 10^100 has suggested five criteria:
1. Reach: How many people would this idea affect?
2. Depth: How deeply are people impacted? How urgent is the need?
3. Attainability: Can this idea be implemented within a year or two?
4. Efficiency: How simple and cost-effective is your idea?
5. Longevity: How long will the idea’s impact last?
You can select your top ideas from the brainstorm (by hitting the “good idea” button” on brainreactions.net) based on not only your passion for that idea but by how well it fits with the criteria. If it has reach, depth, attainability, efficiency, and longevity then it is a tremendous idea! The criteria will also help you to compare ideas to determine which to develop further.
You also need to do more than just develop a great concept. What is often times missing in success is being able to communicate your concept so that it is understandable, valuable and memorable. The Project 10^100 application is simple. They do though ask you to provide more about your idea or concept on key questions. Many of these questions are deserving of their own brainstorm to converge on the best ideas or answers. These questions from this Google Project are:
What one sentence best describes your idea?
Describe your idea in more depth.
What problem or issue does your idea address?
If your idea were to become a reality, who would benefit the most and how?
What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground?
Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure it?
You can also create a short video to explain your big idea. The more visual the better to help others’ minds connect with and understand your concept. Use metaphors, evidence, stories, and examples. You can also use the brainstorming process to create a video, generating ideas for both top-level video themes and the supporting details to reinforce the theme.
So why is it so important to have a process that yields a lot of ideas instead of just one that you get by chance? Generating many ideas is a process-oriented feature of very successful innovation systems in lots of successful organizations. When they develop new products they get many, many ideas in the pipeline. From there, they qualify the ideas and whittle them down into a handful of concepts. After that, they test the concepts while developing them more and may only end up with 1 new product from 100 product ideas. This is how ideation for innovation works. More importantly, when you come up with a large number of ideas it is easier to do good analysis. You can identify some themes that a lot of the ideas shared. Some ideas will lead to new and different ideas. You will learn a lot from looking at all of the ideas from above. You will see the forest from the trees. An innovation process is necessary to develop a better big idea.
Why not carry the Google idea competition inspiration forward? With brainreactions.net you can also run your own version of the competition. Why not do the same thing at a smaller scale and provide funding for ideas to help your organization or your local community? With crowdsourcing the connections can now be made between individuals and organizations. The technology and time is ripe to open up idea submissions and competitions from normal people with great ideas.
About the Author: Darin Eich, Ph.D. helps organizations to develop and facilitate idea generating & front end of innovation systems and programs. He also speaks and trains individuals in innovation, brainstorming, creativity, and leadership. You can email Darin at firstname.lastname@example.org.