At the beginning of each quarter I have students write 50 ideas on a sheet of paper. After 15 minutes of deep rumination, usually only 2 or 3 of them come up with more than 20 ideas. Following that task, I ask them to list 50 things that bother them. The second list isn’t a problem. Usually everyone in the class finishes in 15 minutes or less. What’s the difference between an idea and a problem? An idea is just a proposed solution to an identified problem. But too often we try to create great ideas rather than solving problems.
When generating ideas it’s much easier to work around an existing problem. And when generating solutions, the stranger the better. After getting all the ideas on the table, you can whittle them down to the best ones. But without outlandish ideas, we tend to fixate on common solutions dealing with efficiency, or using a product in a similar way. Inherently we all have a certain degree of “functional fixedness.” We see things as having one use. It’s hard to get over it. A box is for storing and a toothpaste tube is for squeezing. But creative people see past ordinary solutions to create novel ones. Sometimes these are crazy weird. But often times, these crazy solutions lead to more practical applications.
Most of us have been to the Target Pharmacy—what a great relief it is to get your drugs in those containers.
Here’s a new take on the toothpaste tube.
Now, here’s the crazy version of ideation. It may seem weird, but the technology is not far off for something similar.