There are no original ideas. This statement gets thrown around a lot, especially in creative fields like writing and business. It may even be true to a certain extent. Most products, stories, businesses and designs are built on established foundations and templates. So how can people keep producing ideas that you wish you’d thought of (or worse, that you actually did think of but didn’t act on!)?
Connecting Existing Ideas
It may be impossible to come up with a completely original idea, but what if we connected two or three existing ideas together?
Story, images, sound and computer programming were combined together to create video games. Calling a taxi wasn’t an original idea, but if you connect taxi drivers to the Internet to smart phones, you get Uber. Look around you and see what you use day to day that combine ideas that existed before.
Creativity is about making connections. Connections between principles, ideas and knowledge.
One of the most valuable creative ideas I had at the company I work for came from a basic knowledge of code and an understanding of image formats. We give customers the ability to create personalised characters that we print on a wide array of products. Being able to manipulate an image with code meant we could scale the personalisation options we offered to our customers by many multiples of what we could before. We were also able to design and build a full web to print solution, which reduced production time and errors. This came from simply connecting two ideas.
Become an Ideas Sponge
To be able to make these connections, it helps to constantly absorb ideas and knowledge from all walks of life in order to build a mental library (and even a physical/digital library of notes). This means being open to learning new ideas, hobbies, disciplines and cultures. Develop a thirst for learning.
Building this mental library alone won’t make connections happen. It’s when you need a solution that may not exist yet that this pool of ideas comes in handy. It’s when you consciously try to make connections between ideas, knowledge and principles that they start to appear. A tool like mind mapping comes in handy here.
An Easy Creativity Tip
Once we’ve really exhausted our conscious efforts to make new connections and come up with new ideas, it’s a good idea to take a break, let go of the problem and sleep on it, even for a couple of days. If you’ve ever experienced a sudden spark of inspiration or a light bulb moment while in the shower or washing the dishes, it’s because the subconscious part of your mind continues to work on the problem after you’ve consciously let it go. Try this the next time you’re trying to solve a difficult problem.
Go create some connections.