Sustainable Innovation – Inspiration from a 7-year-old

Vision leads to the mission, from which is developed the strategy. Inject vibrant ideas, and stir in some climate and culture, process, and technology.

The result: Sustainable Innovation

About those vibrant ideas, where do they come from?

You can wait for that “divine spark,” or you can make it happen. Often the hardest part of generating new innovative ideas is knowing where and how to begin looking for them.


In the earliest days of our childhood, we spent a great amount of time creating and thinking up new ideas. We were continually building, imagining, and creating things; pillow forts, Lego buildings, kitchen snacks, and whatever else we could dream up using household supplies.

Somewhere along the way, our idea machine got a little rusty or maybe constraint by knowledge and believes. We forgot how to create like kids without boundaries. We entered the workforce where creativity and ideation are often kept in check. “It seems to be more common inside most workplaces for the work environment to undermine creativity, to kill it, rather than to stimulate it and keep it alive,” says Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile, co-author of “The Progress Principle.”

The first imperative of Roberts Rules of Innovation is INSPIRE. The leader of your innovation team has to inspire, lead, and drive the process.  For inspiration to take place, the leader has to be regularly and personally involved so that everyone is on the same page.  Along with vibrant ideas, setting a culture of innovation is a key ingredient in sustainable innovation. Develop it step-by-step by building consensus, reinforcing ideas, underscoring the need for accountability, and asking the right questions.

There are five key steps to achieve the culture that inspires and creates intra-organizational cohesion.


  • Lead By Example
  • Over communicate, under promise
  • Two-way traffic
  • Silo demolition
  • Pick the right champions


It doesn’t hurt to take a few notes on generating ideas from a 7 year old either.

Pratya was assigned the task of coming up with the 8th wonder of the world in school. She recorded her thought process on her blog, Tiger Monkey Forest with the help of her father.


She began with her mission: Come up with the 8th wonder of the world.

Her first step was logic modification: Following a straight line of logic, generate ideas that build on what is already known.

Palace  Rainbow Palace                      Castle  Made of glass


Then she added the Jump:  Generating ideas that combine different elements in new ways. Rather than thinking in a lateral fashion of “what comes next,” think “what could be”.

A floating city in the sky


She then brought in additional data and insight to solve a problem.

Sky + Asteroids that killed dinosaurs + Great Wall of China


The result:  Innovation, The great shield of earth!


Standard idea-generation techniques concentrate on combining or adapting existing ideas. This can certainly generate results, but sometimes you need to jump out of the box. Pratya chose think differently and consider new perspectives. While the great shield of earth will most likely never be become the 8th wonder of the world, I think you would agree that we could all benefit from seeing the world from a child’s perspective now and again. As adults we’re so busy taking life so seriously we don’t give enough thought to tapping into our inner child.

Go buy some Lego’s.


*To read more about the 5 key steps to workplace inspiration and ideation see “Robert’s Rules of Innovation” A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival.”