How Do Ideas Grow?

Stephen Abram

Stephen Abram

May 24, 2017

You’ve got an imagination. You’re creative. Librarians often say they’re not—so typically modest—but generally acknowledge that the magic in getting answers and insights from information is a creative act. Librarians are experts in that. If you’re too self-effacing to present yourself as an expert, can you simply admit to your expertise?

In this first post (of many) for Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog, I’ll put forward two frameworks for thinking about how to successfully present creative ideas for innovation and change within your organization.

What are the steps to moving into deeper conversations with our decision-makers and key influencers? There are two simple things we need to know first.

How do ideas grow?

Sometimes new ideas appear magically, and seem to arrive fully blown. They don’t. People follow a very specific process whereby they come to accept new ideas. It’s a simple five step process.

First, people need to have the awareness that some product, process or concept exists. Advertising and PR helps here. Then—and don’t neglect this step—you have to confirm their interest in the idea or innovation. This isn’t always the case: if someone’s not interested in reality TV, no amount of awareness activities will engage them in the next step, evaluation. This is the first major yes/no step. People ask themselves, “Will I invest any more energy in knowing more about this idea by researching or trying it? Would I even invest as little energy as typing the word into Google?” Getting to trial moves your target audience of decision-makers from evaluation to the point where they can make a decision about adoption. So, understand this short process: awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, adoption. It’s known by the initialism, AIDA. When you ask someone with power to adopt your ideas—or to invest time and effort in supporting, financing, or discussing them—without filling in the first four steps, you’re more likely to fail.

This process can happen very fast. For example, a new chocolate bar with an exciting flavour can move from awareness through adoption in seconds. I just discovered dark chocolate M&M’s. Time from awareness to stomach—minutes! Now, suppose the new ideas are a suite of complex processes and technologies like 3D printing, digital experiences, or intranet repositories. Here we see the market taking years to absorb and integrate the solutions’ promise.

What are the qualities that make an idea intriguing?

Your idea needs to have five qualities to be more easily acceptable to your desired audience: people who may invest energy and money. Overall, the idea’s benefits must be visible in some way. This visibility can be tangible or intangible, but it’s best to make sure you can speak to all five qualities:

First, your innovation should be able to demonstrate a relative advantage over how things are done now.

It should be compatible with current behaviors or show steps that lay a path from the old ways to the new. Compatibility with current modes was why bank machines started outside bank branches instead of in more convenient places. (The relative advantage was that you had 24/7 access to your account.)

Complexity is an issue for markets. How can you make something less complex than the way it’s done now? Online banking is arguably less complex, but only after the target client has acquired the technology, web skills and done the account set-up. Hence, we saw slower than desired adoption for banks—and new competitors who aren’t anchored in legacy systems.

Trialability is a key strategy. It was easy to try M&M’s. I even paid for the privilege. The same is not necessarily true for changes to intranets, OPACs, OpenURL, Linked data, fulltext access, mobile apps or targeted federated search.

Lastly, observability is an important aspect of the adoption process. Can you show the change through demonstration? Can you show other users having successful experiences? Is your environment truly so unique that you can’t find another enterprise or an engagingly clear metaphor to show your innovation idea in action? Either way, by using these five qualities, you are empowered with some keys to convincing others about what makes your ideas for innovation interesting.

Share your stories, questions, and insights in the comments!


Stephen Abram

Stephen Abram

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