I’m always amazed at how much effort organizations will put into finding the next “Rock Star.” As if a single individual is the best way to come up with the Next Big Idea and save the company. Sure, it’s great to have a strong frontman at the center of the stage. But don’t underestimate the value of seasoned backup performers when it comes to idea generation. Social media pioneer Neil Perkins argues that the contribution of an experienced session man can take an interesting piece of work and transform it into something truly great. The example Perkins gives is Lou Reed's classic rock anthem, Take a Walk on the Wild Side. The song starts out with a strong, slow, evocative bass line that sets the tone and mood of the whole song. Bass player Herbie Flowers was no rock star. He worked mainly for record producers, contributing to a long list of popular songs. Every organization needs talent like Flowers to bring their employee ideas to the next level. Someone who can bring ideas to the table and make a contribution that builds on the work of everyone else in the room.
Let's Ask the Room
You don’t have to go any further than your TV screen to see that innovation in the workplace is a huge part of the formula for success. Hollywood has long relied on “the writer’s room,” a stable of expert scriptwriters, to churn out season after season (22 episodes) of award-winning work. A TV show writer’s room typically consists of four to eight screenwriters who work well together, can play off each other’s ideas, and generally move the work forward according to the bigger picture - in other words, the “business rules” of the production.Perhaps the most successful writer’s room of all time was the team that put together the screenplays for Breaking Bad. The team consisted of six writers, a script co-ordinator and of course, Vince Gilligan the show’s creator. Gilligan outlined his formula for success: "You don't make a movie by yourself, you certainly don't make a TV show by yourself. You invest people in their work. You make people feel comfortable in their jobs; you keep people talking."This isn’t just a quirk of the TV industry. Every place you look you’ll find that it takes good people to bring about great ideas. “The Room” isn’t the sole domain of Hollywood - successful advertising agencies, software companies and leading innovators in every field bring together top talent to collaborate, brainstorm and shape the ideas that make the future.
How to Build Your Own Room of Innovation
Innovation isn’t easy. If it was we would be awash in great ideas from every organization we encounter. But there are some things you can do to stack the deck in your favor.
- Spot great talent. Your company is full of talented, eager individuals. They may not always be easy to find - they are typically nose-down to the grindstone doing their jobs. Talk to managers at your organization to find people who stand out and who might be able to contribute a few hours each week to helping your company innovate. If you’ve got a corporate social media portal, so much the better. Use it to find key thinkers.
- Try and try again. Launch a pilot program, let’s say a brainstorming session around corporate social responsibility. Don’t worry if the outcome isn’t a blazing success at first (although it very well could be) - pay attention instead to people who worked well together. Tap these people for your next project.
- Don’t let geography keep you apart. Like so many businesses your organization might be spread across several regions. Don’t let that keep you from bringing top thinkers together. With powerful tools like TemboSocial Ideas you don’t have to let geographic boundaries, time zones or meeting schedules prevent you from putting together your “dream team” of innovators and collaborators.
Once you've decided that you’re ready to get moving and take your efforts at innovation to the next level, don’t fret if a creative genius doesn't emerge from the crowd. You want genius? Just look around the room.