Matti Kinnunen
Jan 27, 2011
Posted in category: 2011 Member Articles

How to be creative?

Competition is tougher than ever. Old competitors come up with improved versions of their products. New competitors arise seemingly out of nowhere with their unpresented concepts. How can one cope? How can one create new ideas, or concepts, on regular basis?
There is no recipe for success. If there were, there would not be any competition left.  But we do know, that creativity is a key to success. So, even though there is no recipe to success, it would be terrific to find a recipe for creativity. The hope for such a recipe beckons us.
Fortunately there are, if not recipes, at least two proven processes for enticing creativity. They are “A technique for producing Ideas” by Mr. James Webb Youngand “Four steps of creativity” by MIT professor Edward Crawley.
Mr. Webb’s process has the following five steps.
  1. Gathering raw material for creativity, of which there are two types. The first is specific knowledge about product and people. The second is general knowledge about life and events. Thus knowing the current products and services and their users is not enough. One must also know life and events in general, know how people lead their lives, their values and hopes.
  2. Finding out relationships among the raw material. Take on a fact and see whether it fits somehow with another one. If it does, note the combination, add it to the list of raw material. Do persist, do not give up soon but try many relationships. Yes, it is hard, tiring and most of the time boring. But necessary.
  3. Forget the whole thing for a while. Let your unconsciousness work on the material and relationships. Let your mind digest the material. Do something else, e.g go out cycling, read emails, have a nice dinner with your loved ones. Anything to take your mind away of the problem.
  4. Suddenly, an idea appears. Your unconscious mind has done its magic and you will have kind of epiphany. Note down the new Idea.
  5. Now, work hard on your new Idea. It is like a newborn child. It must mature, it must adapt to the world. It is not ready, you must change it so that it can survive in the harsh world of competing ideas.
Mr. Crawley’s process has the following four steps.
  1. Spotting an opportunity. For example, being given a product development task. Or maybe seeing an unsolved problem in daily life.
  2. Figuring out a solution. It is important not to look at any ready made, or existing, solutions at this phase. Looking at existing solutions is dangerous, for it will lock one’s mind.
  3. Finding out existing, or related solutions. Here comes the fun step of googling and goofing around. Find great many related solutions. Study their concepts and properties. And note the contexts, or life and events around the solutions.
  4. Combine your own solution with a number of existing solutions. This gives you a new concept, or idea. Then work on the idea.
These two processes have a lot in common. They both emphasize the need of having both wide knowledge about life and events (in general) and deep knowledge about one’s products and services. They also both emphasize the need for individual intellectual work, or thinking hard, but also letting the unconscious mind do its work. And both of them show that neither googling nor goofing around is enough, not even to get creativity flowing.
Now, try out these processes and post your experiences as comments to this article.
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