Our agency focuses on creativity and innovation among a few other topics. From time to time we’ll post interesting tidbits on creative thinking in general. Occasionally a few on how to change the world by business adaptation and change.
What we see depends on what we are looking for.
As background, my perspective on creativity is very sim
ple. It is not about invention. Rather it is about collecting and connecting dots — bringing together two (or more) ideas to create an altogether new idea.
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We often think of innovation as inventing new things, but we may be smarter to think of it as recombining old ones. The truth is that important breakthroughs usually come from combining ideas from different domains. Often combining very different, sometimes weird ideas.
One famous historical example is that of the discovery of genetics. In 1865, when Gregor Mendel published his groundbreaking study of inheritance of characteristics in pea plants, it went nowhere. It took nearly a half century before the concept was combined with Darwin’s ideas on natural selection to unleash a torrent of innovations in medicine and science.
A more recent example is the Apple ecosystem. There were plenty of digital music players around when Steve Jobs and Apple launched the i-Pod. Note he also combined his player with i-Tunes, which made content both more accessible and palatable to music companies. He then threw new products into the mix – the i-Phone, i-Pad and now Siri – creating more combinations and even greater value.
Marrying ideas has been around for ages, quite literally. One of the greatest invention of all? One contender is Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press. Before Gutenberg, all books had been copied by hand or stamped out with woodblocks. Around 1450 in Strasbourg, Gutenberg combined two ideas to invent printing with moveable type. He coupled the flexibility of a coin punch with the power of a wine press. His invention enabled the production of books and the spread of knowledge and ideas throughout the Western World.
Are you looking for more details of generating more innovative business ideas by combining 2 or more different ideas? Consider these areas to stimulate your thinking:
How to change the world … new business models
Business models are often neglected when considering new ideas for your business. They shouldn’t be. One of the best examples of an innovative business model is from Safelite Auto Glass. What’s innovative here you may be thinking? It’s simple. An auto glass repair business that comes to you for your repair. Saving you time and convenience. A value proposition and business model that is hard to top.
Another good example is EBay, reflecting a new model and application of supply, demand and sales.
How to change the world ideas … collaboration
Nearly every new idea is a synthesis of other ideas. So a great way to generate ideas is to force combinational possibilities from collaboration with other people of diverse professions and skills.
Get your team together and brainstorm how you could mix and combine your existing and new ideas together. Combine products with those from wildly different sources.
How to change the world … multi-use
Can you come up with new product ideas that have multiple uses? Doesn’t have to be complex. For example imagine a drill, with bits for multiple uses, such as drill, sander, cleaner, screw driver, etc.
What do you get when you combine a camcorder with an iPod? A digital camcorder that uses a hard drive rather than tape. Up to 7 hours of video on one hard drive. Plus you can do simple edits on the camera – like deleting scenes, even if they are in the middle of your “tape.” You can set up playlists (like on the iPod). Plus downloading to your computer is as simple as using iTunes. No need for the tape, which slows data transfer significantly.
Combine product and service
This is an easy one to think about. Picture the smart phone product and then envision all the services this product provides by the millions of apps that the smart phone can provide. Absolutely mind boggling, isn’t it?
This combination is a little more difficult to imagine. But this really only means there is more upside in this area, yes? Couple of wild dual function products we would use as examples here. The first one is an inflatable sleeping coat that doubles as a sleeping bag. It makes camping in the great outdoors a little more convenient. A second example is a jet ski that converts to a dune buggy with the simple push of a button.
Adding function to packaging
A simple example of this is the use of milk cartons to display missing persons’ picture and description details. Can you imagine a better place to get this kind of attention?
Combine products with those from wildly different sources. Take it to the extreme. The more bizarre the combination the more original the ideas that are triggered. An example is the combination of a bridge and canal overpass for boats and walkers.
Make it work differently
Take a product and think of an absurd way to make it work.. For example, in the developing world batteries are expensive and electricity is unreliable. Imagine a reliable radio that people could wind up by hand. It exists and has transformed the availability of information in many of the poorest regions of the Earth. Think of what you would get combining a suitcase with a trolley? Simple, a suitcase on rollers. Another example? Combine a bell and a clock to derive an alarm clock.
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In your business (or life) how can you combine two ideas together to create something new? Stuck for ideas? Read magazines and rip out pictures or words that you find interesting. This is a great source of new ideas. Force yourself to make combinations.
In doing this, you may get an idea for a new product, a new service, or a new career.
Why not try it with your own products to drive innovation in your business?
So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is entirely up to you.
It’s up to you to keep improving your continuous learning. Lessons are all around you. In many situations, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that struggle gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.
When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.
Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy to improving your continuous learning for yourself and your team?
Do you have a lesson about making your lifelong learning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
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.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
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