“Think creatively. Come up with new ideas. Something no one has thought about yet.” …Right! And how exactly am I supposed to do that? I mean – I can be creative, I always come up with great ideas. Only two small problems –
- The great ideas seem to be in control here – they come to me and not the other way around, and
- It usually happens when I’m in the shower.
Now, since I live in Israel and we have a major water resources problem, I cannot really be both creative and environmental friendly at the same time!
Fortunately, others were creative enough to come up with different systems and techniques to formulate creativity…
In 1946, Genrich Altshuller, a Russian engineer and researcher thought of a new approach to creativity – He decided to focus not on what makes inventive solutions different, but on what, if anything, they might have in common. It's an idea that may seem paradoxical: for isn't the most notable thing about inventive solutions how uncommon they seem, how unique and original? Nonetheless, this exhaustive study (over 200,000 patents reviewed) revealed that inventive solutions share common patterns.
That research and others which followed, formed an entire field of “thinking techniques” for innovative thinking, one of which is called SIT – Systematic Inventive Thinking (originated in Israel). The main idea behind SIT is to think within the box – start with an existing product, and by applying a set of tools that will control and direct our creative thinking, come up with innovative products. Simple, right? …No? Oh, ok – maybe an example would help.
One SIT tool is called subtraction – let’s take a product, remove some key feature from it, and see if we can come up with a new product suitable for a different need, a different market, etc. Sounds strange, right? I mean – adding features is the intuitive way to improve a product, but removing something would only make the product less attractive…
So think of bicycles without their main feature… without wheels. Can a product like that make sense? Can you think of any use for it? How about exercise bikes!! A new product, for different needs (exercising and not commuting), targeted at a completely different audience.
How about a television set? What is a main feature we can subtract? How about the screen itself, the moving image? There is a whole community of blind people who are buying TVs for listening only. Maybe we can create a far cheaper product for them. How about listening to TV while driving your car? Or creating a PC-TV…
SIT contains other tools that can be implemented (Division, Task Unification, etc.) and some principals for overcoming mental obstacles to innovative thinking (more at http://www.sitsite.com/app/methodGeneral.asp).
Other systematic thinking techniques are out there, some specific to an industry or field (e.g. engineering), some more generic. I plan to discuss another “creativity-system” in a future post, but don’t wait for me – go explore... I encourage you to look at this seriously – you already learned plenty for giving it a try, so go ahead – be creative!!
(This post was contributed by Nir Orlev who is a member of the BMC Incubator Team and is based out of Tel Aviv)