The problem is never how to get new ideas into your mind, but how to eliminate the old ideas. What is the difference between a good idea and a great idea? Good ideas come along all the time and help people solve minor problems in work and daily life. Great ideas appear less frequently. Generating new ideas like these require more work to execute. If you use these creativity techniques, you will enhance your thinking skills and avoid the myths.
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Great ideas aren’t necessarily the result of highly-paid think tanks or drug-induced vision quests in the desert. Sometimes they are unexpected moments of inspiration that help keep the napkin companies in business.
The big challenge of generating great ideas is freeing you from the conventional, mundane thoughts that occupy most of your brain time.
How do organizations come up with new ideas? And how do they use those ideas to create successful new products, services, businesses, and solutions?
To answer these questions, a team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York spent time observing radical innovation projects such as IBM’s silicon-germanium devices, GE’s digital X-ray, and DuPont’s biodegradable plastics. Their key finding? Most of the ideas behind these projects came from “happy accidents” rather than some ongoing process to generate ideas.
In more than a few cases, individuals or small groups were simply “freelancing,” working on ideas on their own initiative rather than being directed by some “new venture” board or other idea management system.
Given these results, let’s examine these myths of generating new ideas:
People love change
Many people believe everybody loves to change and be changed.
The simple fact is that there is a ton of people who resist any kind of change. They are very risk adverse and change makes them very uncomfortable.
Many people believe that the best ideas come where the best incentive rewards are offered.
Daniel Pink discussed research in his book “Drive” where rewards were shown to have modest effect on generating new ideas at best and negative effect in the worst situations. Pink demonstrated that with the complex and more creative style of 21stcentury jobs, traditional rewards can actually lead to less of what is wanted and more of what is not wanted.
Creativity techniques … foster autonomy
The belief is that people want to work within groups for new creativity topics.
We all prefer control over our environments. According to a 2008 study by Harvard University, there is a direct correlation between people who have the ability to call their own shots, and the value of their creative output. An employee who has to run every tiny detail by her boss for approval will quickly become numb to the creative process.
The act of creativity is one of self-expression. Granting autonomy involves extending trust. By definition, your team may make decisions you would have made differently. The key is to provide a clear message of what results you are looking for or what problem you want the team to solve. From there, you need to extend trust and let them do their best work.
Most individuals don’t consider where new ideas (or how many) come from.
In reality most people like to think of lots of idea options. Try the quantity approach to new ideas. Use brainstorming to improve divergent thinking. Study and then connect ideas to get new ideas.
You can’t learn creativity, so practice doesn’t help.
Creativity is like any other learned skill. Unless you are the rare minority, you weren’t born with amazing creativity skills. You will need lots of practice and experience. And lots of failures and not so good results. Be patient and stick with it. All good skills take time.
Collaborate with others
The belief is that most ideas come from a single flash of insight.
Collaboration drives creativity because new ideas always emerges from a series of sparks. Never a single flash of insight. Surround yourself with creative people in different fields. Find people that are also looking for collaboration and give it a try.
Creativity techniques … finish what you start
Creativity comes from many starts and stops. Finishing is not that critical.
Remember you are trying new things. And not expecting great results. Many failures. If you don’t finish, it doesn’t count as experience or a failure. Just a give up. This one is the only one on all three checklists. Very important.
Add play to equation
Creative thinking is a serious work like activity.
When looking for fresh new thinking to solve a problem, shake things up by adding some fun and play to the process. It always has the ability to shed the stress and pressure on a team
Failures from experiments tend to dampen the creative spirit.
Do as much experimentation as you can. Don’t worry about failures and allow the team to question any and all assumptions and consider even the craziest ideas.
The belief is that most ideas are composed of totally new thoughts.
The simple fact is new ideas are built from the combining of older ideas. The novelty comes from the application of the idea or combination of idea and application, not the idea itself.
Past experience and expertise
Team members often sit back in hope that the smartest or most experienced among them will come through.
Those who continuously come up with the most new ideas, are ones who are great at cultivating minds from different fields and are able to most efficiently connect the dots. Old lessons from a different field applied to the new field.
We can certainly find many examples of teams where cohesiveness abound.
But the simple fact is that conflict is equally as important as cohesiveness in generating ideas. Many companies build conflict into the ideation process for this reason.
The saying goes that if you have the best mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.
This path is not the usual case however. Often the best ideas are rejected initially. There are many examples … here are two good ones. Kodak invented the digital camera and never took it to market. Smith Corona built a superb word processor and yet decided to stay with the typewriter, its bread and butter.
Many assume that the best insights come to us in a flash of brilliance.
The best ideas typically require a time of incubation in our subconscious. We do best when we constantly shift from one task to another to allow our minds to do something different for our best idea germination.
In your genes
The best ideas come from the best combination of genes.
No evidence supports an “idea” gene or personality type. On the other hand, there is a wealth of evidence that shows there is potential inside of everyone. The best place to see this is in young children.
Best ideas always win
The cream always rises to the top. And the best ideas are like the cream.
But the simple fact is that the best ideas are not necessarily or readily recognized as the best. Most often, they never get to the winner’s circle.
The lone wolf
Most people tend to believe that the best ideas come from single, very smart individuals.
The truth is that most breakthrough ideas come from collaborative teams. For example, Thomas Edison had 15 other inventors working with him. Likewise, Michelangelo had 13 other painters helping paint the Sistine Chapel. The best teams are diverse and include both new and more experienced collaborators.
This list is simple, but makes good sense doesn’t it?
But here is the thing
An example. Over his lifetime Da Vinci created 13,000 pages of sketches and notes. 13,000 pages. By hand, on individual sheets of paper. And how many masterpieces by perhaps the most creative thinker of all time? Probably 3-5 depending on who you ask.
Persistence is a key, isn’t it? Perhaps this is the most important reason we have less creative people.
The bottom line
As we change at a faster and faster pace, ideas adequate yesterday are no longer are good enough. And with digital disruption facing an increasing number of industries, most firms must come up with the best ideas for change or move to a slow failure. The myths of new ideas must be set aside to let the new idea facts take over.
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All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new creative ideas.
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Try. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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