Idea Generation Hour: Taking Innovation Seriously

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We are taking idea generation and innovation very seriously at New York Institute of Technology. What follows is from a handout to student affairs staff about how we are putting that value into action.

Generating new and creative ideas to address the many challenges that face us is an important skill to develop and to use. Acquiring and enhancing the skill takes time and practice. These techniques encourage us to challenge our assumptions, find connections between apparently disconnected issues and ideas, generate new ideas, and consider problems and challenges from new perspectives.

Our “Idea Generation Hour” will be Fridays, from 11-noon. During that time we should schedule no meetings or appointments. During the hour, please remove and/or turn off distractions. Make it clear to others that you are not to be disturbed. It is possible to meet in groups, but that should not occur every week.

At the end of the hour write down up to three of the best, weirdest, funniest ideas you came up with and what they relate to, and send them to your supervisor. They will compile them and send them to me.

Some of the things that we need additional ideas about include:

  • engaging commuters in out-of-class life
  • meeting the needs of various student subpopulations (e.g., commuters, first-year students, transfers, grad students, veterans, athletes, non-traditional, part-time, working, international, LGBTQ, students of color, students to whom their faith is important, and students who identify as atheist)
  • assessing our work
  • connecting academics and student affairs and the in-class and out-of-class experiences of students
  • meeting the needs of students challenged by disability, mental health concerns, lack of finances
  • new ways to teach, coach, and train essential skills
  • better use of resources
  • better, more efficient or effective use of space
  • ways to generate additional resources

Techniques for generating ideas
How each of us spends the hour each week is up to each person. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Read an article or blog post from outside of our field, then reflectively write about how that might relate to the challenges you face or the problems that you have.
  • List your challenges and then try to combine them in a creative way and write about them.
  • List difficult tasks, challenges, and obstacles. Pick one and list all your assumptions about it. Then write down what would happen or what you could do if these assumptions weren’t true.
  • Choose a word from the dictionary, website, or article and look for novel connections between the word and your problem.
  • Create a mind map of possible ideas: Write a key word or phrase in the middle of the page. Write whatever else comes in your mind on the same page. See if you can make any connections. [Go to Wikipedia for examples of mind maps.]
  • Pick out a picture from a magazine. Consider how you can relate it to your situation, challenge, or problem.
  • Take an item from a colleague’s desk or office (with permission!). Ask yourself questions such as “How could this item help in addressing the challenge?” or “What attributes of this item could help us solve our challenge?”
  • Free write about your job, your stresses, your challenges, your successes, your frustrations, and your failures. Any problems identified should be accompanied by suggestions on how to address or improve.
  • Download a creativity or idea generation app for your phone or tablet and use that. Examples include: Ideas, Whack Pack, Oflow, Idea Factory
  • Watch a random TED talk.
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