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These creative laws govern innovation

Have you ever thought about creative laws that govern an innovation process? In the context of a particular domain, a law is a statement of fact, deducted from observation, that a particular natural or scientific phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions are present. It may also be a generalization based on a fact or event perceived to be recurrent. Today, let me share with you a series of creative laws that other innovation experts and I have noticed during our years of work in the innovation domain.

1. “Every advance in human life beings with an idea n the mind of a single person,” notes Brian Tracy. Creative outputs such as ideas or new products are deemed creative if they are novel (new, avant-garde, unprecedented, or fresh), original (individual, unique, surprising, uncommon or one of a kind) and meaningful (significant, valuable, useful, relevant, appropriate and worthwhile). The first three creative laws relate to this output-oriented definition of creativity:

  • The creative law of novelty:
    “The more novel an idea is, the more creative it is deemed.”
  • The creative law of meaning:
    “The more meaningful and valuable an idea is, the more creative it is.”
  • The creative law of originality:
    “The more original and surprising an idea is, the more creative it is.”

    • A corollary to the law of originality is the creative law of individuality:
      “The someone insists upon one’s individuality, the more original one’s ideas.”

2. Cognitive measures indicate the degree of creativity of the creative outputs of an individual or an innovation team. The following creative laws relate to the outputs of a creative thinking session:

  • The creative law of fluency: “The more fluent your creative thinking, the more ideas you produce, the higher the likelihood of having at least one truly creative idea within your pool of ideas.”
  • The creative law of flexibility: “The higher the variety of different idea categories, the higher your idea flexibility, the better you are as a creative thinker.”
  • The creative law of elaboration: “The more elaborated an idea is (or in other words: the more words it has), the more likely people will look at it and use it further.”
  • The creative law of real ideas: “An idea is only useful if it’s written down as a real, full idea, as any idea elements not committed to paper will vanish from the mind. In linguistic terms, a real idea is a sentence with a verb (i.e., ‘Do something’).”

3. Innovation facilitators often use creativity tools to stimulate the creative thinking of an innovation group in an idea generation phase. Here, we can observe the creative law of creativity tools:
“The broader the range of creativity tools a facilitator uses the higher the chance that some tools resonate and trigger truly outstanding ideas.”

4. Creativity technique use triggers (such as an association, mental images, or a scheme) as stimulus to propel your thinking to a new starting point, from where it is easier to come up with fresh, uncommon ideas. In their book Sticky Wisdom, Matt Kingdon and his colleagues from the innovation company ?What If! emphasize the importance of quality stimuli for quality creativity in the creative law of stimulus:
“The quality and uniqueness of stimulus in has a direct impact on the quality and uniqueness of idea out.”

5. Even the most potent creativity tools and most unique stimuli may fail to reveal their magic when a person “has not collected enough dots to connect”, or in other words: lacks a broad knowledge, skills and experience repertoire. Hence the creative law of knowledge:
“The broader your knowledge, skills and experience repertoire, the more dots you have to connect, the easier it is to use a stimulus as a launch pad for highly novel and original ideas.”

A corollary to this law is the creative law of diversity:
“The more diverse the knowledge, skills and experiences within an innovation team, the more diverse dots its has to connect, the more original their ideas.”

6. While specialized knowledge is a necessary prerequisite to mastering a domain, it may trap your creativity in the “expert tunnel” if it’s not complemented by broad general knowledge.

Likewise, working at an intellectual hotspot of a domain (such as a top notch university or a global business hub) may make it more difficult to break away from the mainstream thinking and come up with truly novel, original ideas. These observations are reflected in the following:

  • The creative law of expertise:
    “The deeper your specialized domain knowledge, and the narrower your general knowledge, the higher the danger you get trapped in the expert tunnel, and the lower the likelihood that you come up with truly novel and surprising solutions.”
  • The creative law of the periphery:
    “Outsiders working at the periphery, or even outside, of a domain are more likely to come up with truly outstandingly creative ideas than people working in the domain epicenter.”

7. After you’ve generated a wide range of ideas, look for those that intrigue you. Then design them into outstanding concepts through elaboration (i.e., detailing your idea out), combination (i.e., connecting related ideas with each other into a more valuable concept) and transmutation (i.e., taming a wild idea). Here, three more creative laws come into play:

  • The creative law of the vital few:
    “80% of the value of an ideation session is contained in only 20% of all ideas. Discover those vital few ideas that carry within the seed of a truly great idea.”
  • The creative law of the intersection:
    “Extraordinary ideas can often be found in the intersection between seemingly unrelated ideas, concepts or disciplines. Design more novel, original and meaningful idea concepts by combining interesting ideas with each other.”
  • The creative law of X steps removed:
    “Outstanding ideas are often ‘X steps removed’ from the original idea. Take X steps away from the initial idea (either in sequence or in parallel) to uncover a novel, original and meaningful concept.”

At Thinkergy, we have accounted for these creative laws in the design of our systematic innovation method X-IDEA. When we guide an innovation team through an innovation project, we ensure that all workshop participants successfully play on these creative laws, too. Contact us if you want to learn more about how we may help you master the creative laws of innovation with the help X-IDEA.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article is published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 28 April 2016.