I enjoyed Tim Kastelle’s HBR post: why your innovation contest won’t work. Tim argues that we can divide innovation into three stages: having ideas, selecting ideas and implementing them. The tendency is for organisations to think the difficulty is in the first and to ignore how terrible they are at the other two. Based on his own research he suggests that only about a tiny minority of organisation are really “ideas poor”. This is just one of several reasons why offering prizes for ideas can fail, read the whole thing for more.
That makes intuitive sense to me; I think many conversations in organisations are quite toxic to the new and the tentative without anyone really noticing.
At another level, I think there’s a danger in thinking of those three stages as very separate. One conversation might surface new ideas, finesse existing ones and help others to happen. We might meet around a lathe to finish our new model door handle, but while doing so daydream together about a new way of treating our customers. The creative conversations that satisfy me seem able to support a lot of spinning plates.