Chapter 5 - How to think for great ideas

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How to think for great ideas


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  The current authors certainly wouldn't disagree with this analysis - except to say that the "problem" was not correctly defined. And Ellyard makes a vital point: generally we all try to define a problem too narrowly. Define your problem as "unemployment", for example, and you may restrict your answers to new jobs - and not consider retraining leave or the desirability of leisure and study-time.
  When consulting engineer William J. J. Gordon was given the task of finding a new way to open cans, he deliberately didn't use the word "can-opener" when briefing his engineers and designers. Instead they toyed with such notions as a banana and its easy-peel abilities. Their eventual solution: the ring-pulls you now see on most tear-tab cans. A "can-opener" approach would have limited the result.11
   Whether you use the problem-solving or mission-directed approach, you generally won't come up with a great idea unless you define a specific goal in advance.
  There are, of course, many exceptions. Bacteriologist Alexander Fleming stumbled on penicillin when confronted with a strange mould growing at St. Mary's Hospital in London.
  And when Massachusetts inventor Percy Spencer was working on a novel radar system in 1945, it struck him that the radiation it emitted could have a culinary use. So he hung a pork chop in front of the magnetron machine he was working on. And, as British BBC presenters Peter Evans and Geoff Deehan report, he "produced the first microwave meal in history".12 In another of history's quirks, it was the Japanese who capitalized on the invention. "When a Japanese firm started to manufacture magnetrons, it was forbidden under the peace treaty to undertake military contracts. Therefore it concentrated on peaceful uses of microwave technology; now Japan leads the world in microwave sales." Or at least it did until the Koreans caught up.
  But most breakthroughs come from a firm vision of the future: a specific goal. Many of those creative techniques can be adapted from other fields. Advertising, for example, has given us "brainstorming"13 - the original idea of Alex Osborn, one of the founders of Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn, the giant advertising agency.
  Here are some specific examples of how you can apply the brainstorming, ideas-creation process in practice:
  When you're looking for a new idea, can you:
  Double it: like London's double-decker buses? Halve it: like bikinis


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