How to integrate X-IDEA into your company’s workflows

How to integrate X-IDEA into your company’s workflows

Innovation Method
Published On:
August 23, 2023

Many companies view innovation and creative problem-solving as special activities detached from regular work routines, relegated to special exercises outside the norm. But imagine if we could get the creative juices of your workforce flowing more frequently? What if we seamlessly linked creative problem-solving and innovation to your company's regular workflows? What if we equipped your company with specific creative process flows for daily creativity, occasional creativity, and out-of-the-ordinary creativity? And what if we possessed a flexible creative process method and toolbox, ready to tailor it to your situational constraints, such as time, budget, personnel, and the difficulty and bottom-line impact of your challenges?

Background: Towards a culture of continuous creative improvement

Over the past year and a half, Thinkergy has collaborated with a large-scale local production plant of a Multinational Corporation in the automotive supplier business. The ultimate goal of this project is to nurture and cultivate a culture of creative continuous improvement within the production plant. To instill this philosophy into the company's workforce, we work on integrating X-IDEA, our innovation process method, and related thinking toolbox, into their regular work processes.

Our Approach: Empowering continuous creative improvement with X-IDEA

Our proposed solution for this challenge entails a well-crafted journey. Firstly, we’ve trained a critical number of managers, supervisors, and engineers in X-IDEA to build up creative confidence (“Yes, I am creative!”) and creative competence (“I know how to use a creative process and related thinking tools”). Then, we guide these managers through a number of real-life X-IDEA projects of medium-to-high difficulty, leading to tangible bottom-line impacts. Finally, we show them how to integrate X-IDEA into their company using three different application formats of the method suiting simple, medium, and complex project cases.

The Five Creative Process Stages of X-IDEA

Once A Year X-IDEA

Our default format, “Once A Year X-IDEA,” has been our trusted approach that thinkergy has frequently used with clients for almost two decades. Tailored for high-impact, high-effort innovation projects, and intricate, wicked problem-solving scenarios, this comprehensive format delivers substantial bottom-line impacts (by leading to new revenue streams, cost savings, or both). Typically, companies field cross-functional project teams to tackle the identified challenges and ideally even involve representatives of trusted outside partners (such as suppliers or a creative agency). A broad mix of talents in a project team ensures a richer knowledge, skills, and experiences repertoire pool, thus equipping a project team with more diverse “dots to connect” into more unconventional, extraordinary ideas. 

In this format, we embrace the full scope of the X-IDEA process and comprehensively and thoroughly apply ca. 40-50 X-IDEA tools on a project case. (As specific innovation types require different tools, we have more than 150 thinking tools in our X-IDEA toolbox to suit the requirements of each innovation project; for example, we would ask you to do a trend map, strategic risk map, and strategic road map in a strategy innovation project, while you would create a customer journey map in a customer experience design project). 

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” 
—Abraham Maslow

Of course, tackling significant innovation opportunities or big, wicked problems isn’t easy and requires a more extensive time commitment. So, we deliver “Once A Year X-IDEA” projects over at least one plus two workshop days that are typically separated by an “Xploration Immersion”-phase where teams more deeply Xplore their case by closing knowledge gaps, collecting additional secondary and at times even primary data to arrive at their real final challenge (which is almost always different than what they initially perceive to be the problem or opportunity).

By the end of a “Once A Year X-IDEA” innovation project that may last from a few weeks to a few months, the teams will come up with a range of meaningful top ideas (on a “Great” to” Wow!”-level), some of which will be pretty straightforward to implement while others require an extensive effort but then also are more difficult for competitors to copy. 

Three Creative Process Flows for X-IDEA

Everyday X-IDEA

For simple creative problem-solving or process innovation cases in your work team, we created the “Everyday X-IDEA” flow. Ideal for resolving minor production line issues or improving workstation efficiency, these mini-projects bring some bottom-line impact (typically cost savings) and require manageable thinking efforts. Having your work team quickly pass through the X-IDEA sequence of stages leads to a few practical ideas that the team can promptly test using rapid prototyping to discover a workable solution that resolves an identified issue permanently.

This minimal creative process flow is largely questions-based and uses a few X-IDEA tools. For example, in the Xploration stage of “Everyday X-IDEA,” a work team needs to answer questions such as: 

  • What’s the issue all about? 
  • What do we know (and don’t know) about it? 
  • Who is involved in this? And how do they look at the issue? 
  • What assumptions do we make here (Or put differently, what do we take for granted here without having actual proof)? 
  • What guidelines play a role here that might limit us? 
  • What aspects of the situation are we completely overlooking? 
  • How can we express the issue as a simple sketch? 
  • How can we best express what we’ve learned during the Xploration in a Final Challenge statement (“How to….?) that we can subsequently use for Ideation?”

“Everyday X-IDEA” can quickly guide small work teams towards practical solutions (on a “Good”-level) to fix bugs effectively. This format requires only 15-30 minutes of time commitment (for example, at the beginning or end of a daily shift or a weekly team meeting). As such, it complements the objective of achieving continuous creative improvements at work ideally.

“Life is a continuous exercise in creative problem solving.”
—Michael J. Gelb

Once In A While X-IDEA

“Once In A While X-IDEA” covers the middle ground between our most comprehensive (“Once A Year X-IDEA”) and our most straightforward format (“Everyday X-IDEA”). It’s a creative process flow suiting a standard problem-solving scenario or a simple innovation project case (such as focusing on incremental improvements of an existing product or service). These projects require medium effort and have a medium impact on your bottom line. More often than not, you would involve members from more than one functional business unit to jointly think about how to resolve the issue or seize the opportunity.

In the “Once In A While X-IDEA” format, we use a streamlined creative process flow and between one to two dozen X-IDEA tools to work on the project challenge to arrive at workable solutions (rated at a “Good” to “Great”-level) with a feasible implementation horizon. This format requires the project team members to commit to half or a full day to work on the case.

Conclusion: Adjust your creative process flow to your situational constraints

Innovation initiatives and creative problem-solving cases vary, demanding different scopes of the X-IDEA creative process, tool involvement, and time commitment. So, how does this pan out if you look at all the innovation project initiatives or creative problem-solving issues that your company’s work and innovation teams tackle over a year? Based on our experience, a viable split of project cases can be 65% “Everyday X-IDEA,” 25% “Once In A While X-IDEA,” and 10% “Once A Year X-IDEA.” This proposition promises to optimize creative progress in your company effectively over time. As John Foster Dulles, the former US Secretary of State put it: “The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.”

  • Learn more about X-IDEA, Thinkergy's "know-how of wow," by visiting our website and downloading our X-IDEA booklet. 
  • If you seek an innovation expert to ignite your company's everyday, once-in-a-while, and once-a-year creativity, contact us. Share your creative challenges, and together, we'll explore how X-IDEA, alongside our other innovation methods, can propel your organization to new heights of creative excellence.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2023.