💡 No Innovations Left?

Do you wonder if you’re an innovative person? Struggling to come up with new ideas, like a fresh blog post, product, or design? Think everything’s already been written, made, or designed? If so, think again.


🚗 Car Companies and Continuous Innovation

Take cars, for example. There are countless cars on the road, yet companies release new models every year. New and previous models might appear very similar, but there are always changes. Some years, they release models with major adjustments, while other years, they make minor tweaks.

The point is, you don’t need a radical idea to be innovative. You can use the car company technique and modify existing things to create something new.


🏡 Familiarity and Predictability: Human Nature

You might think tweaking existing things isn’t innovative or radical enough. However, ideas that are too radical often don’t work for humans.

We find comfort in familiarity and predictability. That’s why computer icons look like manila folders, the camera app resembles an old-style camera, and the phone app mimics an old-style phone handset.


🎲 Hitting the Sweet Spot: Not Too Radical, Not Too Predictable

But you don’t want to be too predictable either. If a new product or design is exactly the same as your prediction, you won’t find it interesting. The neurotransmitter dopamine, responsible for how we feel pleasure, responds to prediction errors. If you can predict a comedian’s next joke, they won’t be funny.

The key is striking a balance: not too radical, but not too predictable either.


🚀 Using Existing Things as Starting Points

Use existing things as a springboard for innovation. Everything that exists now is somehow related to what existed before.

Take smartphones as an example: computers, phones, and cameras all existed before smartphones were invented. They’re essentially pocket-sized computers that let you make calls, take pictures, and more.

Tesla may be innovative, but the main innovation is the type of fuel. They still make cars that drive like other cars.


💭 Asking “What-If” Questions: Bending, Breaking, and Blending

Thomas A. Edison said, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

The Runaway Species with an image of a colorful brain to use create innovationsIn their book “Runaway Species,” David Eagleman, Ph.D. and Anthony Brandt, Ph.D. suggest asking “What-if?” questions to come up with innovations. Try bending, breaking, or blending existing ideas.

For example:
🤔 What if I change some elements, like shapes, modes, or ingredients?
🧩 What if I take this piece and that piece, and put them together?
💡 What if I use that idea in this product?
🔍 What if I break this thing apart and zoom into one small piece?

    Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow was the inspiration for the hit broadway musicalLin-Manuel Miranda was inspired to write the musical “Hamilton” after reading the 2004 biography “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow.

    Disney movies often adapt familiar classic stories, and numerous versions of “Romeo and Juliet” exist. All these new things were created through continuous “What-if” questions.


    🌱 Be Prolific: A Prerequisite for Innovation

    One key ingredient for innovation is being prolific. Since it’s hard to predict which ideas will work, plant a lot of seeds. Focus on generating many ideas, just like the design thinking process.

    Eagleman and Brandt state, “Generating ideas and trashing most of them can feel wasteful, but it’s the heart of the creative process.”

    Pablo Picasso and Thomas Edison were both exceptionally prolific, which contributed to their success as an artist and inventor, respectively.


    🌟 Strengthen Your Creativity with Practice

    Creativity is a skill you can strengthen with practice. Keep trying new things, and don’t give up when faced with challenges.


    🐝 Try Something Near and Far

    In “Runaway Species,” Eagleman and Brandt discuss an interesting observation of honeybee hives. Each year, a hive’s population splits in two. One half stays put, while the other searches for flower-filled fields for a new home. It’s a balance of exploration and exploitation: before the local fields dry up, some bees seek richer ground.

    Humans also explore and innovate because we continually seek novelty and evolve. What seems radical now could become familiar later. New needs and opportunities will always arise. That’s why it’s essential to plant seeds near and far, engaging in exploitation and exploration simultaneously.


    🏃‍♀️ Take Action

    Embrace the endless potential for human innovation. If you find it exciting, you’ll see countless opportunities.

    Make it a habit to ask “What-if” questions. Generate numerous ideas by bending, blending, and breaking what already exists. Don’t forget to plant seeds not only near but also far. You never know what will work.

    For more on creativity, check out these related posts: “Want To Generate Great Ideas? Follow These 5 Steps,” “Sleep Can Make You Feel Better and Be Creative!,” “How to be Original: Get Busy Copying!,” and “How to Become a Creative Thinker.”