Accidental Innovation

We — specifically the humans among us — are a very uncreativebunch.

While we excel at refining existing ideas and solutions, we’reextraordinarily poor at creative, original thought.

And I’m not just talking about business, scientific orengineering creativity: Even in the realm of the creative arts(writing, art, music), many practitioners are simply absorbing(being “inspired by”) what others are doing and then making ittheir own.


In a way we’re all unintentional, subconscious plagiarists,and while we often don’t even realize it, many of our “original”ideas are nothing more than refinements (or degradations) of thosethat we’ve come across elsewhere at some point in our time on thisEarth.

Other times it’s completely accidental.

Many of the great inventions in science, mathematics, medicine,and healthcare, for instance, weren’t scientifically pursued withan engineering discipline, but were rather accidental discoveries(usually stumbled upon while searching for a slightly better way ofbuilding a different mousetrap).

And sometimes confused communicationsyields innovation.

Many of my best ideas weren’t the result of quiet time in deepcontemplation — in fact I’ve found intentional, focusedthought to be terribly unproductive — but rather were thewonderful benefit of the bad habit of not paying complete attentionto presentations or media.

Quite a few times I’ve glanced over an article or casuallylistened to a presentation while distracted; drawing inferences andconclusions based upon what I think is being presented tome. As my mind casts it into a workable solution, I’ve often foundthat what I visualized bears little correlation with what wasactually described.  A few inputs, and the presumption thatit’s a logical solution, fooled my brain into creating newsolutions out of nowhere, in a way that I could never have doneotherwise.

This, I suppose, is the foundation for brainstorming sessions.It’s the reason why it’s often productive to randomize all sorts ofproduct or business ideas and them merge them into seeminglybizarre combinations (I created this “How WillYou Get Rich?” tool as a joke, but was surprized to find meactually stopping on some of the supposedly joke suggestions,imaginary scenarios where they would work).

How do youinnovate How do you engage the lateral thinking part of yourbrain, thinking up creative and novel solutions toproblems?