MSD competency A7

Innovative thinking

Generate creative ideas and predict possible outcomes

MSD competencies

Competency definition

Practitioners develop out-of-the-box ideas such as new business models or interventions with the goal of creating change in the programme’s focus area or market system. They are able to hypothesise how the system might respond if the idea was implemented.

Knowledge areas

Practitioners with this competency will be knowledgeable about concepts and ideas described and explored in these resources...

Skills and experience

Practitioners with this competency will have acquired qualifications, skills and practical experience that may include:

  • development of new products or policies that have led to major change in a system’s functioning. This could be from a government (public policy) or private sector (investor/entrepreneur) perspective.
  • generating future visions of system configuration using tools such as Theory of Change to predict new relationships between actors, new behaviours and new business models

Guidance for teaching this competency

Research assignment
Get practitioners to start looking for evidence of innovation and new business models within the existing system by assigning a research assignment to document the variation in business models in a specific sector. Sectors could include transportation providers in a given city or retail shows in a given market. Ask practitioners to interview business owners and represent their findings visually, rather than in a report format.

Facilitated discussion 
Lead a workshop on design thinking using materials listed above. Present practitioners with a completed market analysis that emphasises problems and market failures. Ask them to first reframe from “how to overcome market failure X” to a “how might we…” question. Next, get practitioners to brainstorm large numbers of ideas before selecting a few to clarify using a rough prototype or a journey map. Encourage different teams to give each other feedback on ‘what might happen’ if the idea were implemented.

Coaching and mentoring advice

  • Help staff to reframe questions from narrow, problem-oriented to wide, possibility-focused questions.
  • Pay attention to when practitioners are anchoring on a single solution. Use physical spaces (whiteboards, post-it notes) to help them generate a much wider set of possibilities.
  • Differentiate idea generation (brainstorming) sections of meetings from idea evaluation (critique) sections.

Guidance for assessing this competency

Traditional questions
Present the interviewee with a real, current challenge being faced by the programme - it could be strategic or operational. Ask them to generate as many alternatives as possible and make it clear they are being assessed on the breadth/range of options. After 5-10 minutes select the best idea and ask them to talk through the possible downstream consequences of implementing it, both positive (intended) and negative (unintended).

Direct observation
Pay attention to how practitioners develop alternative possibilities when designing an intervention or developing an offer to present to a partner. Do they consider a range of options? Are they able to work through the likely outcomes/responses for each option? When observing team meetings look for whether there are explicit sections of time allocated to brainstorm a range of ideas - for example free-for-all idea generation or small group alternative development.

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