Creativity doesn’t come from one idea. It comes from a combination of ideas. This process is called synthesis. Therefore, to generate creative ideas, you should make a practice of fusing concepts –especially unlike ones. Fusing similar ideas, or ones that seem natural, will create incremental advances in product design—a bluer paint, or a more concentrated detergent for example. But fusing dissimilar ideas can result in totally new approaches or products. The Dyson vacuum is an example of this. Dyson combined the functionality of a vacuum with the separating properties of a cyclone separator.
This also works to make projects more interesting. In a talk the other night, I was asked, “How do you make a project that is boring, more interesting.” My answer was to combine concepts. Specifically, my answer referred to the design matrix which you can see here. But synthesis is the overarching strategy for creating new and interesting ideas. Recently, I had students push the idea of a book. To do so, we combined the lyrics from songs on their playlist with the concept of a children’s book. Many of these songs were totally inappropriate for the audience. So we expanded our understanding of what a child is and what a book can be. We created some really interesting products. This video is an example of how far Alexis Ellis was able to take the concept.