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Ideas Development – Learning from An Expert

by Paul Forsythe

in Product Development

How do you solve your business problems when knowledge and experience aren’t enough ? The answer, of course, is that you have to produce new and inventive ideas
So do you think you’re creative and able to have lots of great ideas ?

Most of you probably answered “No” to that question so here’s a challenge. In one minute, how many uses can you think of for a paper clip ? Try it before reading on.

When I run this exercise with small business owners, most individuals will come up with three or four uses. Some of them, usually in creative roles such as design or marketing will have a few more but not many will reach double figures.

So how come, when I presented the same challenge to my grand-daughter, a bright eight year-old, she was able to produce no less than forteen ideas in thirty seconds ?

  • The first thing she did was twisted the paperclip into another shape
  • She then joined it to other paperclips
  • Finally she thought how Mummy would use it

Three of the most basic lessons that everyone learns on any creative thinking course

  • Challenge the assumptions
  • Combine objects and ideas
  • Look at the situation from a different point of view

One of the biggest obstacles to the development of ideas is our lack of motivation. We see creative thinking as unusual and requiring us to learn special techniques. In fact, as my grand-daughter showed, the methods are entirely natural but we’ve forgotten them.

The spectacular conclusion of a 25-year study by George Land that started in 1969 was that 98% of three to five year olds were creative geniuses, falling to 2% when they became adult. We don’t need training to become creative. We started out creative and learnt not to be.

The good news is that, once we recognise what has happened, we can make choices whether to be creative. We may be out of practice but we can’t entirely lose our basic creative nature any more than we can lose our ability to read.

Try the paperclip test again using the three lessons above. Your ideas should, this time, be not only more numerous but more inventive.

Now try using the methods to find an inventive answer to your biggest business challenge.

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