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The secret to coming up with innovative ideas

Do you want to come up with innovative ideas?

Start thinking like an outsider.

Why do outsiders come up with new concepts that disrupt an industry, a culture or a scientific field? (Think Netflix, Uber, Airbnb)

Why aren’t the experts in these fields come up with these innovative ideas?

It might surprise you to realise that being an expert can limit your ability to come up with unconventional solutions to problems in your field of expertise.

It may sound counter-intuitive that experts in a field are limited in their thinking, so I will explain why and how it happens.

When you become an expert, your mind develops thinking habits. Your mind becomes set on specific ways of thinking.

You become “programmed” to think in a specific way. And this mindset narrows your thinking.

The phenomenon of having a set way of thinking that acts as a barrier to coming up with creative ideas is known. It is referred to as the “Einstellung effect.” (Einstellung means “setting” or a person’s “attitude” in German.)

To break free from this barrier, you need to think differently, think unique. You need to leave behind the kinds of thoughts that anchor you in what is—thoughts like, This is how it is done, This is how it should be, This is how it works, This is impossible, and This will never work.

To be creative, you need to open your mind and embrace the different, the new, the opposite, and the impossible. You need to be asking, What if…?

There are four ways to imagine new ideas by thinking What if:

1. Repurposing: What if we use this product, service, process, or concept for a different purpose in a different way?

2. Merging: What if we merge these seemingly unrelated products, services, processes, or concepts?

3. Improving: What if we break this product, service, process, or concept into its smaller components and build it back in a different way?

4. New Ways: What if we take a concept and find a new way to go about it? Or what if we come up with a new concept altogether?

What “What if” question can you ask to find new solutions for the problem you currently working on?

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