Adam Gopnik’s analysis of two stalwarts, Lincoln and Darwin, born on same day, has kindled me to read their originals. So I’ve to scout for more time to delve into these classics as quickly as possible. I had to return his book halfway due yesterday. An interesting, entertaining & though provocative analysis, I miss it. But my urge for their originals is still abound, a success to his persuasive story telling.
Step One: Defining – Define the problem you’re trying to solve. A creative idea is the solution to a problem. How you define it will determine how you solve it. Mistakes result from solving too narrow or too broad a problem. So, identify as many problems as possible using tools like observation and then sort from high level to low level problems.
The problem as the foundation of a creative idea:
Defining a problem is crucial and Murray gives lots of example and relates also a personal story of an assignment Intuit presented to him: How to improve mail sales compared to current mail-in rebates and other corporate communications that has not yielded great results. He cites also another problem of going to an island in lake Tahoe with his dog. In order to reach the island, Murray has to construct a ramshackle raft out off all things he manages to get from his home and surroundings and charting the course to safely reach the island, which he did leaving his dog ashore. To his astonishment, the dog was there after a while he reached the island. Then he figured out that this island is after all a peninsula and his dog managed to do a sprint all the way to be with him.
Step Two: Borrowing – Borrow ideas from places with a similar problem. These are the construction materials for your solution. Using your problem definition, borrow from places with a similar one, so start with your competitors, then look to another industry, and finally look outside business and to the sciences, arts or entertainment to see how they solve that problem.
Using existing idea as the material to construct a new idea:
Of borrowing ideas, examples from Apple’s Steve Jobs visit to Palo Alto Xerox visit which lead to creation of GUI based Mac OS, then Bill Gates subsequently copying that to produce Windows OS is lucid & entertaining to read. For this Intuit problem, he had a quick flash while trekking to send the whole software along with mailers to be unlocked after the trial usage. There’s always a thin line between plagiarism and innovation which he explains clearly. Google founders borrowing the idea of solving the Library search to solve the more pressing problem of WWW search and the creation of “PageRank” technology features in this book.
Step Three: Combining – Connect and combine these borrowed ideas. Making combinations is the essence of creativity. So, using the borrowed materials from the last step, find an appropriate metaphor to structure your new idea. In other words, use an existing idea to form the framework for a new idea by establishing a metaphor, extending it, and then discarding it when it no longer works.
Connecting existing ideas to form the structure of the new idea:
George Lucas combining mythology and science fiction, Disney combining his Disney pictures and entertainment adventure to create Disneyland lends credit to the Metaphor story behind innovation
Step Four: Incubating – Allow the combinations to incubate into a solution. The subconscious mind is better at making combinations. To do this, give the subconscious time to work and quiet conscious thought so you can listen to the subconscious speak. Use tools like: sleeping on it, pausing, putting it away, and listening for misunderstandings. In other words, often the most effective thinking is not thinking at all.
Subconscious mind as the womb for a creative idea:
Archimedes to David Murray, all get ideas in a flash due to subconscious incubation of a problem and seeking the solution from inwards rather than outwards.
Step Five: Judging – Identify the strength and weakness of the solution. Judgment is the result of viewpoint. Intuition the result of judgment. Use positive and negative judgment to analyze your solution and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the idea. This leads to creative intuition: an idea that has these things (positives) but not those things (negatives).
Judgment as the driving mechanism in the evolution of an idea:
His hiking story was nail biting to understand how judgment is so important.
Step Six: Enhancing – Eliminate the weak points while enhancing the strong ones. Ideas evolve through trial and error adjustments. They self organize. Return to the first five steps to make your adjustments of the idea: re-define; re-borrow; re-combine; re-incubate and re-judge it all. The order you do these things will be different with every idea for the creative process will create itself.
Trail and Error as the passage to the creative solution:
What Ballmer shared with attendees in the CEO Meet about “the five things that matter” to him as a CEO of a major tech company. The five (as listed on this slide he showed):
This article was a great read and quote summarizes in an elegant way:
"Technical skills are necessary for architects, but not sufficient. Emotional intelligence and ability to understand organizations are the skills that define how good you really are."
It’s going to be 10 years in my current job. I’m into that fundamental question, where to & how to change and make a graceful exit. Well, off late changes in the office made me pen this little poem:
When well’s drain, people refrain
Then owner makes a new well
Fickle as usual and repeating with no respite
Trickles my zest and longing to move despite
Sickle the past as new vista emerges
Hope my poem sums it up all. Off late bumped on this book “forty things to do when you turn forty”. A great coincidence but planning something on WinPhone7 & iPhone3 to feed my learning and keep that search on too.