What is the oddest life hack ever proposed? Most people have heard of drying waterlogged phones in rice. If you grew up near the ocean, you may have heard – and been repulsed by the idea – that urine stops the itch of jellyfish stings. Soldiers who need to clear rooms of booby traps apparently spray silly string near the floor. The fluorescent plastic strands adhere to hidden tripwires without causing the attached bomb to explode. But how did creators discover these and how do you reenact the process to build your business concept?
Each remedy stems from the creator’s sense of urgency and willingness to experiment. When your expensive and all-encompassing phone won’t start, when your skin is burning from jellyfish stings, or when your life is in jeopardy, pragmatism outweighs the fear of looking foolish. For successful creators, no solution is too silly or too stupid. None are rejected because they were ridiculous. Even Thomas Edison was said to have tested 1600 items as lightbulb filaments including coconut fibers and beard hair. The only dumb idea is the one that isn’t considered.
Athletes warm-up before entering a competition, treat your creative muscles the same way. Studies have shown that positive affect, mood, improves creative production. This is why people experience more creative thoughts in the shower, while people-watching, or when staring at picturesque landscapes. In one study, participants who viewed pictures of puppies and laughing babies produced a greater quantity and higher quality of creative ideas than those watching explosions and natural disasters. Other studies point to a correlation between creativity and dopamine, a hormone secreted when the brain experiences pleasure. The takeaway is simple: happiness and creativity are linked.
Before attacking a creative problem, find a pleasant setting. Listen to music you like. Play with the dog or watch kids laughing. Whatever improves your mood increases your creative production as well.
Initially Seek Quantity Not Quality
“Creativity is a wild mind with a disciplined eye.” – Dorothy Parker.
A more prescriptive description might argue that creativity is a disciplined eye after a wild mind. Every effective creative brainstorming session consists of at least two least separate phases: ideation and analysis. Each is performed at different times because creation benefits from momentum and analysis inhibit it. Creation suffers from some sort of cognitive inertia where the first idea is the most difficult to produce but subsequent ones arise with less effort. Immediately analyzing each idea inhibits creators from producing subsequent ones.
Researchers often limit the amount of time or require a minimum number of ideas before moving forward. For instance, find as many new uses for a spoon as possible in 5 minutes or seek 30 new uses as quickly as possible. Both approaches force creators to focus on ideation alone. Create first. Evaluate after.
The way creators evaluate business concepts is as important as the manner that they imagine them. Open-ended questions generate solutions while closed-ended ones reduce them. Closed-ended: would you use a spoon to dig a hole? Open-ended: when would you use a spoon to dig? Closed-ended produce binary responses and the goal is to develop lists of requirements. For example, a spoon might be a suitable digging tool when a shovel is unavailable, when the digging area is very small, if the item being excavated is delicate and could be easily damaged, etc. If the question can be answered “yes” or “no,” it’s the wrong question.
Mood, quantity, and evaluation methods affect the creative output. Find your happy place, produce as many ideas as possible, and evaluate them in a way that produces requirements. Creating the next great business isn’t accomplished by producing one great idea. It is accomplished by creating hundreds of ridiculous ones then sifting through the beard hair and coconut fibers to identify the one solution that surpasses all others.