a collection of posts connecting creative and critical thinking, problem solving and leadership

There is nothing more elusive than the creative skill we call Originality if you limit it to globally unique thoughts and ideas.

From the perspective of business creativity and business ideas, originality means thoughts and ideas that are not common.  For example if one or two people come up with similar product ideas in a company of 100, then that idea can be considered original.  In this context, original is an “out of the ordinary”, “off the wall”, or “Why didn’t I think of that?” kind of idea.

The strange thing about original ideas, from a business perspective is, as Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish Philosopher put it: “Originality is a thing we constantly clamor for, and constantly quarrel with.”  How many times have you come up with something a bit different only to have it “shot down” because it is out of the ordinary or does not fit with current thinking?

If you’re in a leadership role, one of the of the skills you need to cultivate is allowing these kinds of ideas some time to develop – a tolerance for ambiguity regarding the opportunity these ideas present.

Regardless of the immediate reaction to original ideas, they are the basis for all innovation and all change.  You need to develop processes for generating original ideas.

So how do you do that?  Here are 5 tips on how to generate original ideas:

  1. Write all your ideas down.There is no idea that is too silly, too outrageous or too “off the wall” to be excluded.
  2. Look for those ideas that have energy.  Those that make you laugh, frighten you, push your boundaries or maybe make you angry.  There is something in those that has caused an emotional reaction and therefore are the ones with the greatest potential.
  3. Look at each of your outrageous ideas and seek to understand the underlying principle that was attractive when you wrote it down.
  4. Look for ideas that may be combined to give something different.
  5. Try connecting your situation with unrelated objects or pictures (forced connections). For example how is your situation like a kumquat? Does this generate ideas?

The important thing here is not to give up.  Give your brain some time to incubate on the situation.  You will surprise yourself with what original things you can generate.

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