Free the Idea Monkey

Written by: G. Michael Maddock and Raphael LouisVitónuntitled

Presented by: Susan R. Schilke

Are you an Idea Monkey?

  • Idea Monkeys (Divergent Thinkers) have
    • Fluency – able to produce a large number of ideas
    • Flexibility – consider a variety of approaches
    • Originality – produce ideas different from most
    • Elaboration – ability to think through details of an idea
  • (Ring)Leaders – those who manage the Idea Monkeys
  • They are inventive, tenacious and curious
  • They are the driving force behind innovation
  • You’ll hear:
    • We could do this… and this… and this…
    • Building on Joe’s idea, …
    • It would be so cool to…

Channeling the Monkey

  • Clearly define, quantify and prioritize primary needs for the Monkey to address
  • Further focus the efforts with clear, prioritized objectives and success criteria
  • If you don’t like an idea, use an ‘I wish…’ statement (“I wish I could figure out how to get that idea through legal”)

Innovation Formula

  • Three ingredients:
    • There must be a need or insight – what problem(s) needs solved?
      • Fail to identify and communicate a single burning consumer need/solution and your product will likely fail (TIVO)
    • Next (not first) you need an idea – what fixes the problem in an efficient, novel and proprietary way?
    • Finally – you need commercialization and communication to connect the insight and idea

Core Innovation Team

  • All key departments needed to take a product from idea to marketplace
  • Team objectives could be:
    • Bring three ideas we can launch in 12 months
    • Product, service or business model – incremental dollars (quantified)
    • Part of our brand
  • Team takes the idea all the way to launch (parents)

Finding the Insights/Needs

  • Insight – a penetrating customer truth that helps you build your business
  • Fact + Reason, Why + Friction = Insight
  • Moms want kids to eat healthy snacks to grow up healthy but on-the-go schedule makes it nearly impossible
  • Looking for the ‘but’ – reveals the friction

Great Insightsfrequently-asked-questions

Start with Great Questions
What are our customer’s current behaviors?
What are their needs (met and unmet)?
How are they solving challenges?
When and where and why? Who with?
Come from fresh perspectives
Can be quantified – apply to a large group of people

If you can’t read the label…

  • …then you’re sitting in the jar
  • Symptoms of being in the jar
    • We tested that idea. It didn’t work.
    • Silence instead of new ideas
    • Yes, but
    • More ideas for safe line extensions
    • Huh? Industry acronyms abound

Getting out of the Jar

  • Question like a 5-year-old – Why?
  • Job switch – junior/senior, department, boss
  • Diversity – mirror the diversity of your customers for credibility and connectedness
  • Experts from outside the industry – what other businesses answer similar needs?
  • Spend time with your customer
  • Use the customer’s language (what you owe, wellness)
  • Network for knowledge outside the company (!)

cleanideamonkey-245x300Unleashing Your Monkey

Shower your way to creativity
Sleep on it
Open streams of consciousness (words on paper)
Schedule daydreaming
Yuck it up

Finding Your Company’s Monkeys

  • Encourage fun & games (post client problems and reward best solutions)
  • Encourage graffiti – white board, starters – ‘build on others’ ideas’
  • Harness the power of your sales force – ideas will be tuned to the client (and the sale)

Create an Innovative Culture

  • Hire believers (fire non-believers)
  • Hire objective senior managers
  • Promote failure (as bringing you closer to the solution) – baby steps and action
  • Listen to the youngsters/ask the newbies
  • Recruit for problem-solvers not experience
  • If you are burnt out and cynical, quit

Attract & Retain Idea Monkeys

  • Research says the keys to attracting and retaining the best employees (A-Players) are
    • Meaningful work
    • A low stress environment
    • A reward system that makes sense

Leading Innovation

  • Focus on the essential – not the important
    • Important is rational; essential is emotional
    • Important goes on to-do list; essential goes on a to-die-for list
  • Stay above the drama
  • Lean into adversity and find opportunities
    • Support idea parenting (long-term)
    • Deal with the brilliant naysayer


“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged and increased constantly or it vanishes.” Peter Drucker

“Fear is the mortal enemy of innovation, creativity and happiness.” Alex Bogusky

“The most important decision a person will make is whether they live in a friendly universe.” Albert Einstein

101 Ways to Produce Ideas

1 Take a warm bath
2 Go for a drive with the windows open
3 Order Chinese food and eat it with chopsticks
4 Call a random phone number — ask a stranger
5 Ask a childtarot-card-1
6 Create an idea that would get you fired
7 Paint your bedroom
8 Consult tarot cards
9 Gargle
10 Play football
11 Sing a show tune in a crowded elevator
12 How would your favorite uncle solve the problem?
13 Doodle
14 Do a crossword puzzle
15 Pray for a little help
16 Ask the most creative person you know
17 Ask the least creative person you know
18 Run
19 Ask your local postal worker
20 Ice skate
21 Take a shower with your clothes on
22 Ask yourself: “What rhymes with orange?”
23 Talk to your favorite cheerleader about the idea
24 Breathe slowly
25 Flip a coin
26 Mow the lawn
27 What is the simplest solution?
28 Do 20 quick push-ups
29 Go shopping!
30 Write the alphabet backwards
31 Build a fort in your office
32 How would an ant solve the problem?
33 Create a silly solution that rhymes
34 Make paper airplanes
35 Use three wishes to solve your challenge
36 Browse through a bookstore
37 Take a survey
38 Make a sculpture with mashed potatoes
39 Fish
40 Go to Vegas, play a lot of craps
41 Daydream
42 How would you solve it with an infinite budget?
43 Write out the problem with your opposite hand
44 Sing the National Anthem with a cockney accent
45 Eat dinner
46 Change your brand of coffee
47 Wash dishes
48 Find the solution in the clouds
49 Swing
50 Take a nap at your desk
51 Go bowling
52 Spin in your chair shouting: “WHOOPEE!”
53 Eat a snow cone
54 Contort your face in strange and unusual ways
55 High-five yourself
56 Go camping
57 Take Spot for a walk
58 Massage your scalp for ten minutes
59 Play musical chairs
60 Go for a walk in the rain
61 Pick up something with your toes
62 Communicate
63 Stand on your head
64 Stand on someone else’s head
65 Go for a drive
66 Call a psychic hotline, laugh at their predictions
67 Caffeine
68 More caffeine


69 Imagine explaining the idea at an awards banquet
70 Make a prank phone call
71 Think about it before you go to sleep
72 Call mom, she can fix anything
73 When in doubt, resort to duct tape
74 Watch slasher movies to boost your creative confidence
75 Fly a kite
76 Shake up a can of pop and open it
77 Go for a walk
78 Draw a picture of it
79 Pretend to snorkel
80 Think like a child
81 Walk outside and wave to a stranger
82 Look at the person’s paper next to you
83 Climb a tree
84 Find a new word in the dictionary
85 Take an ice cream break
86 Make a daisy chain
87 Dance a polka
88 Play in a toy store
89 Just don’t think about it
90 Jump on a treadmill
91 Alphabetize your refrigeratables
92 Pretend like it doesn’t matter
93 Paint with your fingers
94 Clean your toilet
95 Lose yourself in your favorite music
96 Watch old black & white reruns
97 Listen to bees
98 Walk in a grocery store — notice clever solutions
99 Rake the leaves in your yard
100 Sit outside and count the stars
101 Still can’t find the answer?