Some say that creativity, coming up with great new ideas is hard. I disagree. I have no problems coming up with really novel and interesting ways of addressing problems. It’s about the most fun you can have. You chew on the problem, explore data and whet your tingling nerve endings. Then maybe a bit of incubation and perhaps some deliberate creativity techniques, from using the dictionary to find stimulating random words to bouncing ideas around with other people. And before long, there’s all kinds of great thoughts spouting out and spreading around.
But that’s not the half of it. When you have the idea, you next have to figure out how to make it work in practice. It’s one thing to dream, but it’s completely another to engineer the final solution. You may have to design shapes, connections and so on. You may need to figure out how to make it really cheaply and in a way that is easy to manufacture. And of course take into account all the regulations about recyclability, toxicity and so on. You may even fret about packaging and how to ship it from A to B in one piece. And before all this there’s all the stuff about usability, learnability, aesthetics et cetera. Maybe also you’ll be lucky and be dealing with something more conceptual, maybe just something that people should do.
Then comes the hard part. Or maybe the hard parts. This is about the people stuff. Because before you even get to spend any money on development, you’ll have to persuade other people that the idea is great. You’ll need to persuade them that the problem that your idea solves is worth solving. And worth spending money on. Even if it is blindingly obvious to you, you’ll find that there will be people who think it is stupid and a waste of time and certainly a waste of money. And if you’re developing a commercial product, then you’ll also have to persuade people to use your idea, customers to buy, retailers to stock, marketers to sell and so on.
But don’t worry. All this stuff about persuading people is also about creativity. Because now you are in the territory of social innovation, where you can be creative about how you influence, sell and change minds. The problem that many innovators face is that, while they are great in their home territory, they are lost when it comes to persuasion. The solution is not easy, but it can be fun. You just have to roll your sleeves up and study psychology and social influence. It’s a big field and there’s lots to discover. But if you want to really make a difference in life, you’ll find it the best investment you can make.
David Straker is a creative professional who has spent many years in R&D (hardware and software), won a few patents for his employers, and since the 90s, has been a business consultant—training people in blue-chip companies around the world. He has written a number of books, including two on problem-solving and one on inventing.
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