Do not have idea boxes – have process boxes. (The Creativity Suite. Episode 11)

Interview with Caroline Marken, Nordic Head of Business Development at Siemens Financial Services.

I love when my thought process gets a whack on the head by making me think a little bit differently.

Today it happened when I had a conversation with Caroline Marken, Nordic Head of Business Development at Siemens Financial Services.

Siemens Financial Services helps Siemens clients get finance for their purchase regardless if it is, as Caroline said is, “a coffee machine or a giant solar farm”. One of Caroline’s roles as head of business development for the Nordics is to help develop new ideas.

Caroline started our interview with a statement: “The problem has never been a lack of ideas, not even a lack of good ideas. There are so many great ideas within this organisaion”

Then she added: “The problem has always been execution.”

The idea that ideas often fail when they go from the “idea phase” to “execution phase” is sadly well known in many organistions. So how does Siemens Financial Services try to reduce the failure rate?

They help the person with the idea by creating the process needed to make it happen.

Why? because ideas happen when ideas get a process.

Or as Caroline said: “An idea without a process is (just) an idea.”

There is a classic quote from Victor Hugo that goes: “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.” but it could be well argued that this part should be added: “…except when that idea gets its proper process.”

Caroline told me that it is important to understand the different roles that Project Managers and Project Owners have in the process of making ideas come alive.

A project manager is the key person to make the change happen. The project owner is all about making sure the idea stays prosperous once launched.

It’s the difference between a hen brooding on the egg (project manager) and the hen taking care of the newborn chick (project owner)

One is all about the idea (or chick) coming to life. The other is all about keeping the idea (or chick) alive.

Of course, many times the project manager becomes the project owner. But other times the project manager wants to move on to another project to launch.

In many ways, a project manager is like an entrepreneur who has this idea that he or she wants to see come to life. While the project owner is more like the hired CEO asked to take the now established product and maximise its potential.

Sometimes the founder stays on as CEO for the longest time, but equally often the founder steps down when the “development phase” is over. Same with a project manager vs a project owner.

And sometimes the person with the idea becomes project manager and the project owner, but again, many times it will be different people. Regardless if it is the same person or not it is crucial that the idea person understands the need to create a process for how to make the idea come to life.

So how can we work with getting “idea people” better at process?

Caroline mentioned two things:

a) Get them to better understand the current strategy of the company (to understand if the idea fits with the overall strategy or not. If it does there is a bigger chance it will happen.)

b) Educate the idea people in what the process for making ideas happen in your organisation looks like. Since all organisations are different. People do not need help developing their ideas, they need help navigating the way the ideas come to life.

Hearing Caroline speak a picture came to my mind of a person having an idea about a house built all in glass. No matter how great that idea is it will not happen until that idea is put into the process of having an architect draw up the drawings and the builder figuring out how to build it. The more the person with the idea understands about the process of building a house out of glass, and the better the architect and builder understands the vision in the idea persons head, the bigger the chance of the idea of a glass house becoming a success.

Caroline summarised our conversation with her final thoughts: “If we could help idea people better understand what process is many more ideas would survive”.

True. So true.

So perhaps companies should not have “idea boxes” or “suggestions boxes” where people can write down or submit random ideas.

Instead, they should have “process boxes” – a box where a person with an idea gets to learn as much as possible about what the process for making ideas happen looks like in their organisation.

It might just save many ideas from dying unnecessary, premature deaths.




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