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The Hot Chili Pepper Approach to Generating New Ideas

It struck me today that the way organizations select and promote ideas and projects basically fall into 2 different categories.

Comparison to Hot Chili Peppers

To demonstrate my point, I will compare the 2 approaches organizations used to find and select their next big blockbuster initiatives to the way my father and my father-in-law use to grow hot chili peppers. Before I start, I need to explain that my father-in-law was born and raised in Southern Italy where they traditionally grow and assemble these hot chili peppers as presented in the picture below.

Hot Chili Peppers

Hot Chili Peppers

Normand’s Approach – My Father

The first approach used by organizations to find their next big blockbuster initiative is to let people generate many quality ideas in the course of their activities. There are typically many ways to capture these ideas and some organizations even allow employees to experiment and put forward a prototype of their idea.

This is similar to my father’s approach of putting many (many) seeds in a flower pot to ensure that he will get at least some plants as a results.

Planting as many seeds as possible in order to ensure some results

Planting as many seeds as possible in order to ensure some results

Domenico’s Approach – My Father-in-Law

By comparison, other organizations carefully analyze the various proposals and hand-pick a few high potential ideas behind which they will heavily invest time and resources in order to reach full market potential.

Limiting the number of seeds and investing energy in growing them

Limiting the number of seeds and investing energy in growing them

This is similar to my father-in-law’s approach of carefully picking and drying seeds from the previous year’s crop to ensure that the selected seeds came from a high yielding plant. He then plants a few seeds and will spend countless hours nurturing them throughout summer to ensure he will get the best peppers he can.

Conclusion

I came to realize that both methods are valid. The choice depends on what market the organization operates in and its ability to properly select the right ideas upfront. I suspect most organizations start with the first approach and as they build their expertise, the eventually move on to the second approach.

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