A dear friend of mine Barbara Feinberg researched many new product development processes and she helped Kim Clark and Steve Wheelright of the Harvard Business School as they authored Managing New Product and Process Development. Barbara told me about a cool idea. When senior executives were interested in improving their new product/service process she would have them get into small groups and "draw" their innovation process. I have never done this with a group, but I believe Barbara when she says that this simple exercise does wonders to uncover the explicit and tacit processes; the emotions and the rationality concerning things new.
Most of the drawings have some sort of "funnel" in them as they begin with an ideation process, then an evaluation process, and then an implementation process. Almost all start with many ideas and narrow them down to few for actual experimentation and implementation. What is cool about Barbara's technique is that people feel free to air all the roadblocks, nay-sayers, distractions and difficulties of doing anything innovative. It helps any leader understand the "natural" innovative process at play before trying to change it. All organizations have some way to innovate, and ignoring it only raises alienation and risk.
Also, this technique of drawing is an innovative way to look at innovation itself and engages some of the non-verbal capacity of people's brains. If you want them to think differently, a good way to begin is to get them to do tasks they normally don't do -- like drawing the innovation process. Moreover, if you have a good facilitator, it can be fun and some of them look like something right out of a Rube Goldberg cartoon -- like the one below.
What do you say? If you were to draw your innovation process, what would it look like?