How to come up with that one great idea…

Written by Peter Cosgrove

May 7, 2020

With Go-to-meeting, Microsoft teams, Zoom and Skype you would think we would be covered but there is now a service called Goat to Meeting, Yes Goat. After weeks of working from home, your video calls are probably starting to feel a little tiresome, but what if there was fresh, nonhuman face? Maybe a llama, or a … goat? The Goat 2 Meeting idea is a new service run by the Sweet Farm animal sanctuary in California. The farm works to save farm animals from slaughter and to educate visitors about the impacts of factory farming however with 75% of its donations being lost as people cannot visit, they quickly pivoted and offered this new service which amazingly is giving them more revenue year on year! 

Never before will we be required to be more agile and innovative and while we are still dealing with the lockdown, now is the time to consider ways to disrupt your own business and create new revenue streams. You and your business leaders have more time (taking away commuting and air travel alone should give you back hours a week). This time needs to be used to work “on” not “in” the business. Here are some places to start:

  • By definition innovation is something new. There is no immediate return on investment. If you need a business case signed off by the accounting department, it won’t happen. As Einstein said, if we knew what we were doing we would not call it research.
  • It’s rarely one big idea. Many people look at touchpoints to the customer and get small teams to focus on making that specific touchpoint world class, you will be amazed how people can come up with great ideas with a very defined scope.
  • Testing: As the head of Walmart famously said “Whenever you get confused, go to the store, the customer has all the answers and all the money.” Have your employees act like mystery shoppers, making customer enquiries or applying for their own online jobs, and see how your customers see you.
  • Look at other industries, the roll-on deodorant idea came from the same technology as the ballpoint pen, so often you need to focus less on best practice in your own industry and focus on best practices in other industries.
  • Co-opetition: the car industry is very good at understanding that working with competitors to build something quicker with more brainpower can be of great benefit to both parties and then its up to both sides to go from there. Is there any competitors that you could work with in your industry?
  • The small stuff: it is small things that generally drive employees crazy. The wasted time in meetings, the deluge of email, the arduous expense policy. Use this time to ask yourself – if we can get most of our staff to become remote workers within one week, how many other bureaucratic issues could we solve over night and improve employee wellbeing.

It’s a myth that the smartest, most creative people gravitate to start-ups, when in fact many can be found in the oldest corporates. Siemens employs 95,000 research scientists. Monsanto employs some of the sharpest agriculture technology minds on the planet. More importantly remember this – if you want to come up with some good ideas, you need to start with some bad ones, so how are you creating a culture to allow people to come up with any ideas? And don’t worry if you spot a llama or a goat on your next video call!

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