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Think about the ideas you normally generate. Would you qualify them as crazy ideas or would you say that the ideas you normally produce could use a little boost in the novelty department? Truth is, most of the ideas that we produce, have to be pushed forward into truly great territory. This is kind of hard, because most ordinary ideas are pretty far away from extraordinary. It would be easier to pull ideas back from absurdity, closer to novelty than it would be to push them forward from ordinary into crazy.
So what holds us back, from starting with crazy and working backwards? Because too often our goal is approval rather than innovation. If we work in any form of business environment, we spend most of our professional time generating ideas for approvals Rather than innovative solutions. From our boss's approval to the client's approval, most of the ideas we generate are meant to pass some form of approval process. Spend any time within this process, and it's easy to see how our ideas can inadvertently soften as we begin to understand what it takes to get approval.
To reach innovative status, most of the ideas we generate need to be pushed forward into innovative territory. The solutions we create are just that, solutions. They're relevant in that they solve the problem. They just do so with a low level of novelty. To up the novelty ratio, work to generate ideas that need to be pulled back rather than pushed forward. Let's practice I, this idea with an exercise. You'll need a piece of paper and a pencil for this exercise. So if you need to pause the movie now to retrieve those things.
Do so. Are you ready? Sweet. You're going to be creating the items on a kid's menu for a new super exciting family restaurant in town. First, write down three kid's menu items that you often find at family restaurants. I'll give you a moment to do that. If you need to pause the movie, go ahead. Got em? Good. Now let's push these items forward one notch. If you wanted to make these three items a little more exciting to a kid, how could you change them slightly to make kids say, I want that.
What could you add to them or rename them that would cause kids to order that item? Pause the movie here, and take a minute to write those down. You got those? Good. Now I want you to put that list aside for a moment, and let's create a new list. I want you to write down six food items that kids love to eat. It can be any food. Take a moment to write those down. Got your six foods? Good. Now pair up each food item on your list with another food on your list so you'll create three new menu items to complete this exercise.
It's okay if they don't normally go together. Find a way to combine them into a new menu item. Pause the movie here and take a minute to write down your new items. Got em all done? Good. Now, I want you to compare your three pushed forward ideas, the ones you created first with these three new crazy ideas. Which ones would you say kids would like more? Odds are, the second list is more creative and crazier. That second list may need to be pulled back a bit to make it relevant as a real menu item.
But the chances are that starting from that second list, rather than the first, would yield more novel ideas. Absurdity is an interesting starting place for novelty. It almost always produces more novel ideas, but ideas that need to be pulled back into relevance. Start with the absurd and pull back, rather than starting with the mundane and push forward, and you'll train yourself to generate ideas in greater quantity and quality.
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