Welcome to a new world of innovation. Forget sitting down with a few fellow engineers to cook up some new solution. Chances are 1:1oo,000,000 that you come up with a disruptive and groundbreaking solution. Why should you? Why exactly now? Just because somebody expects that from you? Not in a million years. This is not ow our brain works. It’s not how we create solutions.
Homo Sapiens is NOT creative!
This is one of Prof David Eagleman’s. And you can prove it right here: Come up with a creative merger of an agremotizan and a platypus. OK you don’t know what either one is? Doesn’t matter create the idea anyway. Oh, you got stuck? Of course you you do. If you never had an experience or saw a platypus you cannot even know what it is and how you can morphe it with an agremotizan. When you google it, we may get at least an interesting answer :) You can’t create anything that you have never seen or otherwise experienced.
Salvador Dali’s famous “Temptation of St. Anthony” looks pretty creative. These Elephants with their super long and extremely skinny legs. But they are still leggs. And still elephants. And everything else in this picture is assembled from things that are known and he had seen and experienced before.
After countless discussions if we are or are not creative, any group will conclude that we are not really creative but we have this amazing ability to compose anything that we ever saw or experienced to something new. But if you never saw an agremotizan, you cannot compose something new with it. And neither, if you never saw a platypus. But the very moment you saw one just for a second you can compose a whole world around it. Homo Sapiens is at least a super composer.
How we compose new ideas
With every experience we have, even before we are born, our brain is busy to look for similar experiences and creates relations. The brain ranks and orders all these experiences and while we have it looks if it can create a composition with other experiences. If it makes sense based on a good match with previous problems or needs it may present the composition right away – we call that an idea flash. But the same idea could be created by simply seeking for a solution for any given problem. Our brain looks for similar situations and may present an idea. This mechanism is typically fast as for the past 300,000 years we needed fast decisions in case of an danger or other emergencies. Part of that process is that our two rather different halves of the brain are “negotiating” the solution. The key to that function is the so called corpus callosum. It connects the compositive right half with the logical right half and hopes to get a fast answer. In our world of innovation the answer is mostly: too complicated, too expensive, takes too much time, requires skills that “I” don’t have and so forth. It doesn’t need the conservative team to kill great ideas, you do it yourself faster than anybody around you. If the idea is simple, cheap, fast to realize it is a go. As a result it is a little improvement but never a real innovation. With all that said, another key aspect to that process are the “experiences” you collected. The more experiences you have, the more unique situations you have been in, the more images, videos, situations you saw the more options you will get.
Innovation is always a solution to current or future problem
To be innovative and think innovative you have to be perfectly aware of the problem you are trying to solve. Innovation is never just a flash in the brain and you create something that all of a sudden everybody wants but can’t solve any problem with it. It would take me too long to give you enough examples why. The automobile was developed out of sheer fun working on such a machine. It didn’t solve a problem immediately but over time people saw the advantage of a more flexible way to move around. But those types of “innovations” are one out of a million. The biggest and fastest successful have been solutions to problems. For instance the problem not trusting taxi drivers, not wanting to negotiating an obscure fair, not wanting to wait and having no clue how long it will take, not knowing how much the ride will be, not being able to always pay with a credit card, hoping the driver understood the destination address. And so forth. With an Uber you type in the destination, the drivers sees it, accepts online payment, no cash is exchanged, you know how many minutes it takes until the next uber will come, even who she is. You know exactly how much it is and some meaningful options for a tip are provided. That is innovation that gets pretty quickly successful. The solution was created after one of these painful taxi experiences a frequent traveler has over and over again. A very similar story is behind IKEA, AirBnB, Tesla, Facebook, Google, Nespresso, Stripe and Paypal and so forth.
Having an idea out of the blue, that leads to a billion dollar business, is less probable than winning the jackpot in the lottery. But you can build such a billion dollar and highly successful innovation, if you are intimately familiar with the problem and the dreams and wishes of your customers. IKEA, AirBnB, Tesla, Facebook, Google, Nespresso, Uber, Stripe, Paypal and so forth are perfect examples for teams who tried to crack a problem that so many people had or still have. All it takes is a good understanding of the full cycle innovations paradigm and a well structured discovery process, a solution design process, a concept realization process and an innovation to market process.
In any case, the first step, before starting consciously innovating, is understanding how our brain works and creates new ideas.
Happy innovative thinking