Think. Invent. Repeat.
Make innovation a habit.
Habit contradicts innovation
Doing the same thing, the same way, doesn’t lead to different results. The more habitual the behaviour, the less inventive the results. Imagine if the relation could be changed, eliminated or even reversed - what if increased habituation would result in sustained innovation!
The world around is transforming fast. Knowing this, is doing little to nothing to make executives and employees think differently, to break away from habitual daily business. Behavioural psychology shows us that conscious belief and intention rarely interrupt strong cues of habit. Long term behaviour doesn’t usually come by convincing people. It’s why smokers continue smoking, exercising regularly is a struggle and younger agile companies are whizzing past industry giants.
Being ordered to think differently, to leave behind all that we have known and done, is like saying don’t think of the polar bear - you find that the cursed white bear is all you can think of, every minute - when to have the next smoke, how to stay on the couch, use ailing processes rather than reinvent them. Ironic rebound and cues of habituation are so incredibly strong, making techniques like brainstorming often ineffective - it’s why participants come up with uninspired variations of the white bear.
Creativity and divine interventions
Contrary to popular belief, habit building and inventive thinking have less to do with exceptional abilities of will power or divine interventions, than they have to do with the science of learning mechanisms. As behavioural scientist Wendy Wood has explained in her brilliantly researched book, habits are formed based on what’s easy and immediately rewarding. Reducing the friction - the complexity, increases joy and hence repetition. Little things matter. You're five times more likely to go to the gym if it is 5 kms away than if it is 8 kms away. Wendy goes to bed in running clothes to reduce the friction on her 6 am run.
Creativity made easy and repeatable
When you’re tackling one of those wicked problems, or any problem for that matter, behaviour can be coded into the way you approach. Different approaches lead to different results - ensuring you don’t end up in circles in and around the white polar bear.
Rather than wait for that bolt of lighting to strike, reduce the friction. Don’t wait for the random genius - that stuff’s hard. Get creativity flowing by applying simple steps. Start off like a Mies en Place cook. Set the stage for thought and action. Much like a cook, bring to light all the ingredients and tools (resources) available and within reach. Make them visible. At the very least, list them out.
To change perspective, start somewhere you have never started. Start with what you considered waste. If you usually start with flour and water,
start with onion peels instead. What could you do with them?
What good could they be? As a shell container? What else?
Bring in other ingredients. What if you would combine in with something? Pour in melted chocolate to form a mould. What ideas does that give you?
Make ingredients interact with each other. Warm vanilla sauce would make the chocolate melt. The warmer the vanilla, the more chocolaty the sauce.
I’m no professional cook. Just making this stuff up as I write, falling back into the delightful habit of using easy, low-friction tools to apply creativity in any space and place. It’s so much fun, it makes you want to apply it everywhere! I could also stare into the kitchen waiting for brilliance to kick in. But that’s not easy. Or I could tell myself I’m not a creative cook, it’s not my domain, and I sure as hell won’t be repeating it.
Always test it
The work of rapid prototyping and validation of an invention remain. Who could possibly like warm vanilla sauce in a chocolate coated onion shell - that’s a very valid question! Ask it right at the idea creation. If there’s nothing to be got out of the invention, chuck it and repeat the creative habit. The more habitual you are with it, the more inventive you get.
It makes the creative process seem suspiciously simplified and codified. Don’t take my word for it, try it! Follow this simple cue. Be the cook that starts somewhere you never would, use your ingredients in ways you have never done before. What if customer satisfaction starts being measured at customer support instead of with customers, or if product dev life cycles started un-releasing software, removing un-used features, reducing complexity thus making it easier to focus on adding features of value.
Think. Invent. Repeat.
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