Where do ideas come from, the turning nothing into something?
Creative ideas are what have separated human beings from everything else on this planet. From stone tools to our modern technology, ideas, inspirations, and flashes of insight have been the genesis of every innovation humans have ever conceived. First, it has to be a dream, and then it has to be designed.
Dreaming and designing is the activity that turns nothing into something, bringing new value where there was none before.
Moving ever deeper into the 21st century, we are collectively leaving our industrial age frame of reference and bias and embracing the challenges inherent in the new normal–a global economy now based on ideas. The shift places a premium on the talent and skill of dreaming and designing. Individuals and organizations must excel at both to thrive in the brave new world.
There’s nothing new under the sun.
Everything that is comes from something else that was. While it’s fashionable to proclaim innovate or die, many great innovations are borrowed from other ideas that came before.
Every organization wants to be perceived as innovative in their product development. The truth is many organizations struggle to be innovative in ways that are game-changers for their long-term success. Rather than developing a deeper and richer understanding of what people really care about, many companies innovate around themselves, bringing to market incremental innovation produced within a familiar knowledge base and strict cost structures.
Enlightened organizations are dreaming and designing around life experiences and meanings rather than competitive or functional features and benefits. To do that well, you have to go outside of what you know and look for related patterns from other sources of inspiration. For example, the idea of a printing press came to Gutenberg while he was watching the movements of a wine press. Eureka humanity forever changed!
Dreaming is messy.
Organizations that are performance driven and action-oriented have a difficult time dreaming. It’s messy and unpredictable. These organizations like to stay within the boundaries of known protocols and past experience. The premium is placed on what has worked in the past. Of course, the trouble with that line of thinking is nothing from the 20th century is working too well in the 21st.
Imagination is one of the most elusive and mysterious of all the mental faculties. When we are dreaming up new ideas, we are playing in the realm of the formless. Performance-driven-metrics-obsessed organizations need a solid form–tangibility and predictable results. The imagination doesn’t work in strict linear patterns of cause and effect. Ideas are formless thought seeds, the result of unfocused attention and idle daydreaming.
Those organizations that master their collective imaginations and innovate transformative products and businesses have become comfortable with the unformed and the unknown–the messy business of creating value.
Designing is the imagination taking form.
Much has been written about the disciplines of design and design thinking. Breakaway organizations like IDEO have made the principle of design thinking their stock and trade. To quote author Marty Neumeier in his book Meta Skills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age, “if you are going to innovate, you’re going to have to design”.
Dreaming and designing are two sides of the same coin. Designing brings the form to the formless. Designing is the action of dreaming. Designing is about making things and making things better. The people who will solve the problems facing us today will be dreamers and designers–entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, artists, educators, philosophers and anyone who is seriously thinking about elevating our collective life experience.
In every activity and human endeavor, the process of design will bring order, simplicity, and beauty to the complex problems facing nearly 7 billion human beings living on this small blue dot we call our home.
So where will the big ideas come from that will elevate our human experience? From anyone and anywhere. All of us have the capability to transform our world with our ideas and our visualizations, if only we give ourselves permission to try.