Ideation Inc. published a framework that helps clarify the type of creative thinking you want to achieve. At a high level they ask you to think about the different processes you use when you’re trying to be creative about products, processes, marketing or management. Second, is to think about is whether it is incremental or revolutionary results that you are after. Lastly you must consider if you wish to work within narrow or wide boundaries, such as time or money.

Their approach is a simple questionnaire to ascertain if one is focused on creativity in the product, marketing, process, and or management areas. A second anchored scale deals with the numbers of solutions or ideas that you are after. They range on a seven point anchored scale from a few to many (dozens or more). A third seven point anchored scale has to do with the desired output, being at one extreme implementable solutions or “baked technology” through to new ideas or directions never before tried. The fourth anchored scale differentiates based upon the type of solutions that you need. At one end of the scale is incremental, at the middle next-generation, and at the far end breakthrough or revolutionary. The fifth element is the timeframe for implementation, be it short such as one to three quarters, to long such as from three to five years. The last determinant is the amount of money that’s available. Is the project going to be conducted within it tight budgetary constraints that require approval, through to an open funding environment where support is for the most part unlimited?

Fortune 500 organizations have experimented with models in each range of these scales. Xerox Parc for many years operated in a very free invention and innovation environment. HP on the other hand goes through a 10 step process. Because HP regards continuous innovation is their lifeblood, their 10 step process acts as a catalyst for innovation and invention by focusing on the needs of potential customers and the best means answering them. Such a structured process for gathering and analyzing and testing data combined with the creativity and expertise of individuals is what they feel drives innovation. They seek imaginative understanding of user needs and creative application of technology combined with the focusing of resources.

The HP process started with a statement of purpose or vision of the organization followed by its mission and goals that are their five-year objectives. The seeds for invention or innovation came from customers and channels of distribution. Those seeds were defined and prioritized based on an analysis of end-user customer and channel needs together with the detail understanding of their purchase process and value chain.

Directed Invention and Ideation

Such Invention-on-Demand moved forward more quickly in the 1990s as the TRIZ problem-solving technology was exported from Russia and adopted in Europe and the U.S. The premise underscoring this technology was that one could direct the process of innovation step by step. Another premise of this approach was that having good well-resourced people, left to their own devices, was insufficient to create enough technology to sustain the growth of most corporations. What was needed was an ideation method that would deliver superior quantities and quality of new inventions and innovations. Structured approaches to invention and innovation thus became popular (explored one by one in detail in later chapters) following the belief that one could direct invention and innovation in a way that would improve corporations’ performance as shown in the “Effect of Directed Invention and Ideation” figure.