There's no single magic formula for generating brilliant ideas. But there is a magic formula for increasing the odds it will happen. And the key is building a culture that stimulates people's intrinsic motivation in the work they're doing. Without intrinsic motivation, and a culture that supports it, it's very difficult - near impossible - to generate the essential creative breakthroughs that drive a company forward.
So, how do you create conditions for intrinsic motivation to flourish in your company?
Tip 1: Find the right people. Do what you can to maximize the odds of creative insights by finding people who are passionate about the mission and goals of your organization. This, of course, isn't always easy to ascertain ahead of time, and it's also obviously critical to hire talented people as well. But there typically are enough talented people in the pipeline to also select on passion. Take a queue for the master football coach Bill Belichick, who is known for selecting obscure, off the radar type football players and molding them into champions. And one of his most essential selection criteria is how meaningful football is to the player: How much they truly love the game (as opposed to the accolades associated with playing the game.
Tip 2: Create a culture that enhances people's attachment and passion in the work. Articulate for your people how the work they're doing has meaning. Even if a programmer is just writing code, make sure she also knows the bigger picture - how the code she's writing is going to contribute to solving a problem that she deeply cares about. And keep her updated on the progress of the problem. Give her the whole picture. Make sure you give people insight and access for understanding the greater good that their individual efforts are contributing toward.
Tip 3: Create an evaluation and reward system that enhances intrinsic motivation. Make sure you create a culture where people receive constructive, frequent, honest feedback about their efforts. To sustain creativity and intrinsic motivation, people need to know that the dedication that they put into creating their ideas will be met with an equal level of fairness and dedication in the way they are evaluated and rewarded. Find a fair and transparent way to create rewards that honor truly creative work, and be open to changing your evaluation system based on feedback and experience, just as you are asking your employees to do with their own creative ideas.
In the end, the real brilliance isn't in finding that once-in-a-lifetime star; rather, it's in creating the conditions and practices in your company to increase the odds of success and creative breakthroughs happening from everyone involved.