Unimplemented Creative Ideas

Photo by: Nicco | Source: photocase.com

It’s fashionable to say that good creative ideas have to be implemented or they’re not worth anything. It’s a sentiment in line with expectations for efficiency, productivity, and the ultimate value of execution.

But it’s also a load of crap.

Saying creative ideas are only good if they’re implemented is like saying a major league baseball player is only good if he hits a home run every time at bat. Or an NBA basketball player is only good if he scores every time down the court and no one ever scores off him.

Sure, either of these situations would be fantastic, but they are completely unrealistic and defy the dynamics of baseball and basketball.

In reality, there all types of good baseball and basketball players. Great players in both sports perform at the top of their games in various ways. Scoring is only part of success. Contributing to others scoring is vital. Playing outstanding defense is another aspect. Performing at outstanding levels in specific, defined roles (i.e., a baseball closer isn’t expected to throw six innings) is part of success too.

7 Good Creative Ideas that Might Never Be Implemented

The same phenomenon applies to brainstorming good creative ideas whether or not they are implemented. Not every creative idea gains its value from being implemented as originally envisioned.

From thinking about how players contribute in baseball and basketball outside of scoring, here are seven types of ideas that may never see the light of day in their original form, yet are still important:

  • Ingredient Ideas – These creative ideas become part of a bigger idea and may disappear entirely as independent ideas.
  • Trigger Ideas – These lead to or enable other ideas that ARE implemented.
  • Temporary Ideas – Creative ideas that are clearly not the end result, but will suffice in a pinch until better ideas come along.
  • Sacrificial Ideas – They fall short of what’s needed but get a brainstorming group’s competitive juices going toward brainstorming other better creative ideas.
  • Starter Ideas – These ideas work right away but are intended to be easily adapted, changed, and grown over time into something different.
  • Hail Mary IdeasIdeas that move a brainstorming session to consider completely new, far away possibilities that change the dynamics of ideas a group is imagining.
  • Blocking Ideas – These draw a brainstorming group’s attention away from a “loser” idea that has captivated everyone’s attention so the group can start thinking about other possibilities.

Any of these types of creative ideas are good ideas, even though you may never notice them being implemented.

Innovation Metrics and “Assist” Ideas

To borrow terminology from basketball and baseball, when you total up your innovation metrics scorecard relative to brainstorming and implementing ideas, add a category for “idea assists” or “sacrifice ideas” just as you would find in basketball and baseball scoring stats.

Even though it might be difficult or nearly impossible to keep track of these types of ideas, your innovation metrics scorecard isn’t complete unless you include these good ideas in your stats. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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One Response to “Innovation Metrics – 7 Creative Ideas that Are Good without Implementation”

  1. Mike Brown says:

    I received a couple of comments taking exception to this post and wanted to share them:

    1) From my strategic mentor, Chuck Dymer: “Mike, This was a bit of a stretch…seems to me that there are but two ideas inflated to seven: ingredient ideas and trigger ideas. That being said, you make a great point, an idea doesn’t have to be implemented to be useful. Thanks. Chuck”

    In response to Chuck’s comments:

    I think there are more than the two types of ideas, but we’re probably talking pretty close variations. For instance, I was thinking of a trigger idea as one where someone says an idea, and it immediately makes a connection for someone else, or work down one path (outside a brainstorming session) leads to a more productive idea. But I’d contrast that (from a methodology standpoint), with a “Hail Mary” idea, which I was thinking of from the exercise where you try and come up with ideas to piss off the authority figure (to really stretch thinking) before bringing them back to something realistic. The former may be a natural outcome, whereas the latter is a deliberate attempt to come up with ideas you KNOW are never going to be pursued.

    2) From Jim in Atlanta:


    The *above made me think a better sentiment is: Saying creative ideas are only good if they’re implemented is like saying a major league baseball player is only good if he PLAYS.

    If you don’t PLAY the idea… it’s not of much value (assuming it has value) to anyone. Therefore I find significant cracks in the foundation of your analogy… because cracks in your (slab) foundation mean you’re going to fall into a sinkhole straight to the center of the earth! (or does it only mean your carpet will get wet during a heavy rain?) Food for thought? I hope I’m not premature — as I stopped right there and replied, before finishing the email. :-)”

    In response to Jim’s comments:

    I can see where you’re coming from in pulling the standard back to simply “playing” vs. scoring each time. And as a guy who lives in the land of cracked cinder block basements, I really get that part of your comment! While using “scoring” may stretch the analogy, I think it’s reflective of the presumption that is put on ideas in many organizations / business circles. Ideas are being evaluated (and rightly so) on whether they lead to success, but often there’s a much higher expectation than one can ever really expect of the success rate…leading me to the examples I shared. You could pull that expectation back to simply an idea is tried…but the next question after the one about trying an idea is going to be about whether it was successful. I simply pushed it to that question right away in the post.