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Apr 18, 2019

An article by Jens Bode, Trend Explorer & Innovation Game Changer for the Laundry & Home Care business unit at Henkel

How to kill a stupid rule

Innovative brainstorming meeting with Jens Bode

 

Henkel is innovative – which is good, because innovation is at the core of our company’s strategy. The way in which we develop innovations, however, has changed. It feels like the world is spinning faster these days, as brand-new competitors, retail brands and young startups are entering the scene with creative ideas. This confronts us with new challenges, which we see as an opportunity to approach innovation in a completely different way. One example of how we do this is a method we refer to as “Kill a stupid rule,” which is based on calling the well-established into question and making room for creativity.

Innovation takes time. It also implies taking the time to research current trends and new insights from customers or markets, make the mental connections between them and develop new ideas and concepts from there. The question is, how do we take the time to do this? On days filled with meetings, e-mails and spontaneous ad hoc requests from colleagues or customers, there is often no room for it. The key here is agility. It may be the latest business buzzword, but agility is an important precondition for our organization to be able to develop innovations faster in the future.

The “Kill a stupid rule” creativity method

It isn’t a call for revolution. It’s a provocative creativity method designed to call our daily processes into question. At the same time, it’s a fantastic investment in the future. The “Kill a stupid rule” method works on the individual level but delivers the best results when it is applied by a small, diverse team, ideally with the support of a neutral moderator. The first practice takes about two hours. The team will run through a typical workweek or product development process, for instance, and systematically question every aspect of it: processes, meetings, approval loops – anything that the team deals with on a daily basis.

“’Kill a stupid rule’ is a provocative creativity method designed to call our daily processes into question.”

Which obsolete standards, rules, procedures and other “administrative nonsense” should we let go of sooner rather than later? What is currently being done a certain way, only because it was always done that way? What are the unwritten rules? What are the internal mental barriers and paradigms? Where do we cause our own processes to stall?

When in the process of killing a stupid rule, it is important that the participants feel comfortable expressing their opinions and ideas – which could mean meeting in a different location

When in the process of killing a stupid rule, it is important that the participants feel comfortable expressing their opinions and ideas – which could mean meeting in a different location.

The next step, which will create the basis for a brainstorming session, is to ask solution-oriented “how” questions that will serve as a kind of mental springboard: How can we make meetings more effective? How can internal processes and procedures be radically simplified while maintaining the same quality standards? How can learning curves, successful implementations and even alleged flops be shared more broadly?

“Kill a stupid rule” is not about assigning blame or highlighting mistakes that others have made. The prerequisites for this exercise include a culture of open communication and having the tact to express things in an appreciative but nonetheless critical manner. By the end, the team will not just feel that it can actively (co-)determine its own work culture – it will also reveal exciting new spaces for creative freedom. A freedom that can subsequently be used for consumer-oriented, forward-looking innovation.

Tapping into networks

In addition to making room for creative freedom in day-to-day work, networks are also incredibly important for generating innovation – be they within the company or in the form of connections to agencies, other firms and startup businesses. Where can we discover fascinating approaches that could be relevant for our own company? Who is working on similar topics to ours and could give us new perspectives on our problems? Who might we meet “by chance” today, what is that person’s role and how can they move us forward in the innovation process?

“Be curious and remain open to all sources of inspiration: customers, partners, creative crowds, or even impulses and trends in parallel markets.”

One of the best ways to increase creativity is by networking with others inside and outside the company.

One of the best ways to increase creativity is by networking with others inside and outside the company.

Innovators are ungrateful. Ungrateful, not in the sense that they complain ‒ that’s always the easy thing to do ‒ but in the sense that they continually call into question what has been done in the past. They reassess everything constructively. They are brave and radical about putting an end to things that are done now just because they were always done that way, but may have become irrelevant or outdated compared to more effective, new solutions. Be curious and remain open to all sources of inspiration: customers, partners, creative crowds, or even impulses and trends in parallel markets.

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