According to Columbia Professor Bill Duggan, the vast majority of the methods used to try and come up with innovative ideas are based on a flawed understanding of how how the brain works.In an interview with Columbia Business School about his new book, Creative Strategy, Duggan reveals a surprising discovery he’s made while digging into how the most successful innovators come up with ideas:
I was surprised to discover that 99 per cent of innovation methods that people use today are based on a model of the brain that neuroscientists abandoned more than a decade ago. In essence, these innovation methods tell you to do some kind of research or analysis, and then you brainstorm to come up with your innovation idea. The theory of brainstorming is that you turn off your analytical left brain, turn on your intuitive right brain, and creative ideas pop out. But neuroscience now tells us that there is no right or left side of the brain when it comes to thinking. Creative ideas actually happen in the mind, as the whole brain takes in past elements, then selects and combines them — and that’s how creative strategy works.
According to Duggan, a better way to go about searching for innovative ideas, consistent with the latest neuroscience research, is to take a look at the problem or situation you need an innovative idea to resolve or improve, and break it down into different elements.
After that, look for precedents that have solved or could each element. Then, Duggan argues “a subset of these precedents come together in your mind as a new combination that solves the problem. That idea is your innovation.”
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