Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we've been thinking about a problem.
Newton did it lounging under an apple tree. Archimedes did it soaking in a bathtub. Einstein did it while shaving. Those are the settings in which these great minds did their best thinking (at least according to legend). The common theme is that they were in the state of relaxed concentration. Rather than sit at your desk hammering away at a problem, it is often wise to let your mind wander. In his terrific book The Element Sir Ken Robinson describes the process:
In Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, a fantastic book about the creative process, Peter Sims builds a compelling case for why breakthrough ideas come about as the result of lots of little experiments. Drawing on everything from Chris Rock's method of developing stand up comedy, to the production process of the animation teams at Pixar, to the "HP Way" corporate culture inspired by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, to Frank Gehry's unconventional architecture designs, Sims advocates for a creative process that defies the common understanding of creativity. Sims slays the myth of the creative genius who gets hit with a bolt of inspiration out of nowhere like lightning. Sims argues that, instead, most people who are highly creative achieve success through a constant, deliberate cycle of experimenting, failing, adapting, and fine-tuning. Here are a few of Sims key insights.
Topics: Chris Dolan, creativity, Entrepreneurial, creative thinking, breakthrough, creative problem solving skills, creative thinking skills, approximate thinking, developmental thinking, implementation
We tell our clients to select an idea first for newness, second for appeal, and last for feasibility. Why? Because real breakthrough innovation has to have a very high level of newness owing to the fact that newness cannot be built in to an idea. The newness of an idea can and will only move in one direction, it’s a fleeting thing. Appeal is important for traction but doesn’t have to be widespread (it won’t be if it’s truly new, people are afraid of what’s new). Moving an idea forward requires support and to get that initial support some amount of appeal is a necessity. Feasibility, unlike Newness, can be built into an idea via some well-managed creative problem solving (that’s another post). By beginning with a high level of newness, a acceptable level of appeal, and a moderate-to-low sense of an idea’s feasibility, you can end up with an idea that scores high on all three spectra, sacrificing only a minimal amount of newness in improving the feasibility. Then you’re on your way to real breakthrough innovation!
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