Customer experience strategy and innovation expert Woody Bendle is getting all crazy innovative in today's guest post as he shares how to push for extreme innovation when you need it. Take it away Woody!


Creative Thinking Exercise for Extreme Innovation by Woody Bendle

One of the most exciting things to me in the innovation process is generating an array of possible ideas for uniquely solving unmet or underserved consumer needs.


As you see in the i3 Continuous Innovation Process map above, generating ideas happens AFTER the consumer needs have been identified. The reason for this is two-fold:

  1. If you generate new product and/or service ideas before you fully understand all of your consumers’ needs, there is a high likelihood you will waste time, effort and money chasing a cool idea destined to fail.
  2. It is easier to come up with possible solutions to a problem once you actually know what the problem is!

Assume we’ve done our homework and have clearly identified and prioritized all our consumers’ needs based on the magnitude of the opportunity.  The next step in the Continuous Innovation Process is to come up with as many possible ideas or solutions (regardless of feasibility), that might create meaningful new value for our target consumers.

I like starting idea generation sessions with a set of exercises I’ve developed called “Going to Extremes.”  The objective is to break the ice quickly and get the craziest, coolest, far-reaching things you can come up with on the table to start. The more absurd, extreme or ridiculous the idea the better!


As you begin working with these tools, it is important to frame each exercise in the context of exploring possibilities for addressing only one or two unmet (or underserved) consumer needs.  Narrowing your focus actually works in your favor when you are Brainzooming!

It is important to emphasize you really want to try to come up with 100 (or more) ideas for each exercise.  All ideas are welcome – as long as they are crazy, cool, extreme, ridiculous or even absurd!

In my experience, the best and most innovative ideas tend to be closer to the 100th idea than the first, so keep generating as many ideas as you can.  And don’t judge them, because the next step of the i3 Continuous Innovation Process is where we weed out the ideas that don’t make economic sense.

The Value of Going for Extreme Innovation

After working with these creative thinking exercises for several years, I’ve found them effective for several reasons:

  1. They explicitly make it okay to say something a little (or a lot) crazy. Everyone has a little “crazy” in them, and they now have permission to let it out!  And, Column C reinforces that we’re looking for stuff that is really really crazy, cool and way out there! As a side note, how many times do you suppose Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs or the Wright brothers heard, “That’s crazy!” - only later to hear “This is awesome!” or “This is amazing!”
  2. Because you are going for quantity in addition to the extreme, participants tend not to overthink their ideas in search of that spectacular idea – they just let them rip!
  3. Thinking about the why and the what (column B) highlights functional and emotional benefits which often lead naturally to new, even better ideas for Column C. (Remember that breakthrough innovations tend to be much closer to the extremes than where we currently are. )
  4. Lastly, these exercises are a ton of fun!  Now, who doesn’t need more fun in their life?!

So here is a crazy idea; the next time you are planning an idea generation session, why don’t you give these Going to Extremes Exercises a shot?

And if you need a little added encouragement, let’s give a listen to what Seal has to say about getting a little Crazy.  Better yet!  Play this tune in the background during your next idea generation session! Woody Bendle


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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.