Sanjeev Kotnala: A review of R Sridhar’s ‘Unlock the real power of ideation’

20 Sep,2017

By Sanjeev Kotnala


Ever wondered why there is not much to write about the ideation sessions happening every few days in the corporate environment?Or why things don’t seem to move the way you want even after taking every possible precaution and ensuring the participation of right people and great environment? Is it the process or the facilitator, the people or the environment, the location or the subject?

Stop panicking. In his book “Unlock The Real Power of Ideation,”R Sridhar, the ideation and creativity guru, answer few of these questions. He shares what he has learnt in his career as a corporate exec and then as a coach and facilitator.

R Sridhar

While sharing the earnings, Sridhar uses storytelling to full impact. He gives you a ringside view to a hypothetical ideation session with a company where the CEO is sceptical about the outcome. The CEO baits Sridhar with a challenge and then invites him for a session with his team.

The rest is the story that takes off from this confrontation. Sridhar fortunately uses many examples and a nicely paced conversation to drive home the point.

Sridhar identifies and keeps the focus on to the ‘SEVEN KEYS’ to help an effective ideation session.

The 7keys that helps unlock the real power of ideation are.

  1. Define what you want ideas for.
  2. Choose the right people.
  3. Design a robust process.
  4. Use divergence to generate a variety of options.
  5. Use convergence to arrive at idea’s worth pursuing.
  6. Make a business case.
  7. Commit resources, time and money and act.

Sridhar empathises the three stakeholders important for a great ideation session. He says, “In in my ideation sessions, there are three key players. The first is the problem owner or client who wants ideas to solve a problem. The second is the facilitator – me – who designs and manages the process. The third are the participants in the session. I call them advisors.” Nothing could be away from the truth.

The book has a short description of useful tools and techniques for ideation.

First part of the book deals with generating divergent multiple solutions and approaches ( ideas) for the agreed issues. And the latter part tells ways to converge ( select) the best solution from the large number of ideas developed in the first phase.

Sridhar has used Grey Screen to highlight the things e wants you to read and think about or what he considers as a critical takeout of the chapters or the discussions. Here are few examples

‘The assumption we make about the problem limits the quality of our solutions. So, it is important for us to clarofy boundaries if any. Otherwise, people make their own assumptions, which affect their thinking’ – Page 39

Here is another gem that I personally fully endorse and believe in. ‘People affected by the problem are likely to give better solutions than those who created the problem’ Page 49

‘When people have no stake in the issue under discussion, they feel and are unafraid. They have no inhibition or bias. They express anything that strikes their mind. It could be wild, crazy, impossible, unusual, funny, risky, foolish, stupid, childish, expensive, dangerous and sometimes even irritating. It is from such a crop that we get a brilliant possibility. Quantity leads to quality’ Page 54

On page 151; he simplifies the definition of idea. ‘An idea is a prescription for action…… By definition, an idea will change people, places and situations. And you know what is expected.

There are two areas where I believe that Sridhar should have pushed more.

•     Everyone is creative, and everyone can contribute in these sessions.

•     The need for multiple solutions and the quantity (number of solutions) leading to quality (selection of a better alternative).

It is a simplified approach to a simple process that people see as a complex one. I am very happy that Sridhar in his book over simplifies it. The only area which I feel could have been toned down is the self-appreciation. In some parts of the book, it seems to sell Sridhar as an ideation facilitator, and it does a damn good job of it.

In my ideation workshops – ‘IDEA-HARDVEST’ and ‘InNoWait’ -  I use similar processes and can vouch for quality of results. There is no cramping for space. The lines and words are well spaced. This does add bulk in terms of the number of pages but then the type size and space enhance readability.

Go ahead and read the book. You can’t bore people into thinking differently. Sridhar book will surely help you think differently in your future approaches to ideation. And yes, he does not bore you.


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