Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of asks; “whose job is it to come up with new ideas?”

New Ideas & Business Development

Whose job is it to find new ideas for the purposes of business development? There’s no doubt that everyone should look for new ideas as they carry out their designated jobs. It should be everyone’s business all the time to seek better, simpler, faster or cheaper ways to do something. And as the word ‘everyone’ suggests, all the heads of departments and divisions are included. This is all crucial in looking for ‘improvement’ ideas.

However, who has the job of looking out for really new ideas that could affect the entire company? Who is given the job of specifically seeking such ideas? The role of coming up with new product ideas might belong to the research department, but the training of engineers and scientists is not steered towards value creation. A value product doesn’t always arise from technical achievement and technical excellence.

It is important that value design and traditional R&D are separated conceptually because they are very different. Perhaps the two overlap in the case of particular individuals, but this is dependent on the individual rather than the structure.
The unfortunate truth is that most organisations do not have anyone whose role it is to consider the possibility of new ideas. The importance of a ‘Concept R&D Department’ is discussed in one of my books. This kind of department would be concerned with value concepts. It would highlight needs, opportunities, business development, and so on. Ideas could be generated from inside the department or obtained from outside sources.

Most corporations rely on suppliers and they are not expected to generate all the material they need in-house. For instance, car makers buy steel. Electrical fittings and tyres also come from outside the company. Therefore, it doesn’t make any sense for ideas to be treated any differently.

You only need brains for the production of ideas, but because of that there is a belief that ideas will come along without any effort. Of course, that’s not the case. Creativity and value sensitivity are vital skills and must be developed. It’s true that some people are better at being creative than others, but that applies for any skill.

Ideas must be treated as seriously as finance and raw materials. The need for ideas and their potential value becomes clear once you start to treat them seriously. It also becomes apparent that the usual way of just waiting for ideas to happen is far from efficient. There’s no other area of business where you just wait for things to happen.

An idea might be harder to implement or more expensive than you first thought. There is a lot of uncertainty and risk attached to a new idea. Many ideas fail. But ideas and innovation loom large in the history of industry and business development. The people who come up with the next step forward often go on to be the market leaders.

About the author
Edward de Bono is the world's leading authority in the field of creative thinking and the teaching of thinking as a skill.