There are various schools of thought about how to learn creativity. One approach is to study the functioning of the brain. The psychology profession leads the way on researching how your brain generates an idea, and it’s contributed a mountain of knowledge about it. These scientists conduct rigorous experiments to see how different conditions affect a person’s creative output. But there is still so much to learn about the brain.
Another school of thought is to study successful innovators like Thomas Edison and Steven Jobs. What is it that they do they made them so successful? What if you could replicate these great minds to generate your own successful ideas?
Now it’s an intriguing concept at first. Do what Steve Jobs did. Behave like Ben Franklin who was a prolific inventor. The problem for me is we have very little documentation about their methods. I’m not even sure they knew specifically what they did to generate ideas. And if you read biographies about these inventors, you would sense their lives were a bit quirky and chaotic. I don’t think that’s what creativity is all about. It’s anything but quirky.
So what does that leave you with? Well, you could read a lot of books about creativity and innovation. There’s a ton of them, and more keep coming out every week, so it seems. The problem is when I look at these books - and I review them all - I immediately search to see what part of the book discusses the cognitive method to produce an idea. Sadly, most books don’t address it, and if they do, they’re usually suggesting some form of brainstorming, which has been proven not to work!
Is it hopeless? Fortunately not. What if, instead of studying the human brain, instead of copying the behaviors of famous inventors, we looked at something else - we looked at the output of the brain, from all innovators, not just famous ones. What would it tell us?
You’ve heard the term - Voice of the Customer. Imagine if we had a way to listen to the Voice of the Product. Consider an ordinary chair. Chairs have been around a very long time. What if you could interview this chair and learn its secrets - how it was invented and how it evolved over many millenniums?
Well that’s exactly what my friend and co-author, Dr. Jacob Goldenberg, did for his PhD research. He studied highly innovative products, initially to see what made them different from one another. What he found instead is that highly innovative products have more in common with one another. They tend to follow a set of patterns, and these patterns are like the DNA of a product or service that can be reapplied to any situation to generate a creative idea based on that pattern.
For me, using tried and true patterns is the most effective way to increase my creative potential, better than anything else I’ve tried - which is just about everything.