How to be the person creating the most novel ideas

How to be the person with the most creative idea

For four years of my life I have had the opportunity to answer one extremely important question: how to generate better ideas in groups?

I was lucky to see that before me, there have been many more scientists who had dedicated their research to answer that same question – so I could stand on the shoulders of giants.

Comparing the output of 90 experimental and quasi experimental primary studies on which creativity technique would lead to better ideas, I saw that Design by Analogy, for example, was one that hasn‘t been outperformed by another creativity technique so far.

And to make it clear: brainstorming has long been known to be ineffective – social loafing, production blocking, evaluation apprehension – only to name a few, are reasons for that ineffectiveness.

So after that literature review I had a pretty good sense of what kinds of creativity technique would be better than others on creating original and feasible ideas.

I then put these to the test. In my own experimental studies, I had half the groups perform a creativity task (creating adverts for their businesses) using brainwriting, and the other half of the groups performed the same task but were given 3 other techniques:

  • Design by analogy
  • Mr. X
  • Reverse technique

Afterwards, these ideas were uploaded on a website, on which external raters – blind to the hypotheses of my study – were to rate the randomly displayed ideas on two scales: originality and feasibility of the ideas.

Results: the treatment groups had produced ideas of significantly more originality, controlled for feasibility, than the brainwriting groups.

How should you then produce ideas? Try Design by Analogy!

  1. List attributes of your initial situation or the problem that you want to solve. Also list attributes of the ideal final state.
  2. Then search for an entity from a totally different domain (nature, technology, humanity) that shares the same underlying principles.
  3. See how that entity would solve your problem.
  4. Apply the analogy solution to your initial problem.

An example?

Imagine, you design fair booths. But you feel like they should attract and invite more people to stay and linger a little longer at your stand. ATTRIBUTES OF THE FINAL STATE: people would stay because they feel comfortable there, relax, get some inspiration from your presentations

  1. Search for an entity, in which people like to linger, relax, be comfortable, engage in (inner) dialogue… I thought of the woods, birds singing softly, humming tones, green light, beams of the sun, some water stream flowing.
  2. Apply the „woods“ analogy to your booth design.
  3. VOILÁ

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