Creative Juices

It is a feverish time for business leaders with mounting pressure to INNOVATE! CREATE! Companies are seeking better ways to get the creative juices flowing, to stay fresh and relevant. Start-up founders, engineers, designers, marketers, hackers, scientists, pretty much everyone wants to hit upon the next big idea! But how? Is there a short-cut to generating creative ideas? Here’s what some innovators suggest to do in “How Entrepreneurs Come Up with Great Ideas” (click link).

And despite all these strivings, The Wall Street Journal scoffs that innovation is cliché in You Call That Innovation?! (link here).

Perhaps we can’t rush things. Some, like science writer Steven Johnson, favor the ‘slow hunch’ approach to invention, which may take a long time (maybe decades!):

Others believe the best way to create is to get your mind off the task of creating (see article here). Neuroscience author Jonah Lehrer suggests that relaxing is one way to boost creativity, and he tells us to go “Take a hot shower!” Imagine: How Creativity Works interview on Charlie Rose VIDEO – click here

Harvard Business Review blog gives more tempered advice in How Big Companies Should Innovate (click here).

And let’s not forget the social aspect of innovation. The old adage is, “Two heads are better than one” and suggests that bouncing ideas off of each other can spark even greater innovation. Here’s a great history of brainstorming from The New Yorker (click link).

But in fact, BRAINSTORMING IN GROUPS is not really better or more creative. You first need to incubate the idea alone.  The problem with classic brainstorming in big groups at the office (in a room with all of your coworkers, your boss, or your secret crush) is that the “group psychology” pressures individuals to verbally share only ideas that will be popular, and this prevents the wildest more creative ideas from emerging (more details click here). Marketing research shows that the most creative ideation occurs when individuals brainstorm alone (without fear of acceptance), and only after that idea develops a bit in your own mind should you test it against others (via hypothesis-testing or validation of assumptions) to tweak the details (see link). In fact, this method of invention is the basis of “Lean Startups” that use creative ideation followed by data-driven validation (trial-and-error testing) to explore the best solution.

Some entrepreneurship advice from Silicon Valley startup veteran Steve Blank:

How to accelerate innovation (à la Eric Ries)                  (Ries describes “validated learning” as an iterative cycle of build-measure-learn.)

The downside of classic brainstorming from scratch is substantiated by business scientists, such as Jacob Goldenberg (see Finding Your Innovation Sweet Spot” link here). According to this “Systematic Innnovation” approach, it’s better to think inside the box (e.g. a closed world of product and user in their native environment) using well-established templates (aforementioned link) and then to work in reverse order attributing new functions to this new form you made.

Furthermore, failures in your creative cycle are normal and should be tolerated, according to wise investors,

There is also a constant creative tension around experimentation and making sure everyone in the organization feels it’s better to experiment, fail and then move on and experiment again, then to not do that… constant real time interaction and experimentation.” -Jim Breyer

 (An often-cited example of modern creativity is Silicon Valley as a model environment for innovation: see this VIDEO from Stanford Business School‘s Chuck Eesley)

Certainly the playground of creativity is enabled by the web, as curator Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings blog strives to inspire or trigger new connections between seemingly disparate disciplines. She calls this approach ‘combinatorial creativity’ in a sort of melting pot approach. See this interview with Popova-click here.

Finally, the main problem with so much creativity sparking around everywhere lies in our languid or hesitant execution of creative ideas (We forget to follow-through!) according to creative CEO Scott Belsky.

The Bottom Line is: Make Your Ideas Happen.

Check out more articles at:

The Creativity Post (lots of great stuff!)Quality content on creativity, innovation and imagination”

The 3 Biggest Barriers to Innovation, And How to Smash Them (Fast Co.)     

Innovation 101 (WSJ link) how designers use experimentation to fail faster and ultimately succeed

How Bilingualism Promotes Creative Language Usage (NYT link) multicultural influence can boost creativity

The Brain Likes a Challenge How difficulty can improve creativity

A Crash Course in Creativity TED video Stanford Business Prof. Tina Seelig discusses how our assumptions, attitude, even our habitat can affect creativity

“Lab Notes: Creativity” from WIRED’s Eric Barker blog here

Innovation Is About Arguing, Not Brainstorming from Fast Company

10 Tricks to Get The Creative Juices Flowing (Inc. advice for the novice)