One of the first things I did once we received funding was have a regularly scheduled “Crazy Idea” meeting every Friday afternoon.
All the designer engineers, myself, and the VP of Marketing (who had a strong technical background) would get together. The rules were simple:
- Anyone could bring up any idea they had on anything, and…
- The idea could be just one sentence on a piece of paper, and…
Those were all the rules we had.
There were just eight of us in that meeting at the start. And the designers came up with some pretty crazy ideas:
- Most of the ideas sucked, and…
- Some of the ideas that weren’t completely thought out morphed into great ideas once the group started discussing the ideas, and…
- Some of these ideas became home run products
I had these meetings weekly when we started just so we could build a buffer of ideas. Then, as time went on, I reduced the frequency of the meetings to monthly.
I also had another motive for the meetings: I wanted the engineering community thinking about innovation.
I knew in my industry (Analog ICs) that true, game-breaking, 10X to 100X better ways of doing things usually come from design engineers. I felt that if we could give the engineers encouragement and constructive feedback we would generated killer products.
I was partially correct:
- There are some engineers that will become great assets in your product definition/innovation process, however…
- There are other engineers that just want to be told what to do.
That’s okay. You just need to identify the engineers that can contribute to innovation from the ones that will not be able to contribute to innovation.
Companies get in trouble when the demand for innovations outstrips your ability to supply innovations.
You can fall into the dangerous trap of developing products that aren’t unique enough. And, eventually, mediocre products will lead to a mediocre return.
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