It's hard to believe that I've been in the innovation game as long as I have. I've been thinking of creative ideas, inventing, launching services, and teaching others to do the same for many years. While this experience is good, it can sometimes be hurtful. Finding yourself doing the same thing over and over again can be tedious.
We all fall into this type of rut. People often do this with morning routines. The good part is you know what step is coming next. The bad part is when something happens to throw you off, you might overlook things. Routines are problematic when dealing with innovation. To successfully find creative ideas, you need to look at things with fresh eyes constantly. By looking with fresh eyes, I mean seeing something as if you are seeing it for the first time.
Breaking The Rut with Creative Ideas
How do you break the rut to cause your brain to think differently? You need to observe things, not just look at things and take in information. When I was at HP, I would observe customers while shopping for products at BestBuy. When they picked one that wasn't an HP product, I would walk up to them and introduce myself. I'd ask them what made them choose that product over the HP one to understand their reasoning. Observing isn't just about seeing with your eyes. It is also about asking questions and having an inquisitive nature.
In some cases, solving problems with fresh eyes doesn't work. In this case, you may have to bring someone in from the outside who has fresh eyes. Here is an example of this. A major manufacturer of potato chips was struggling with a problem: their chips were too greasy. They previously had too much salt on the chips, so they shook them. Tried this with the grease, but it did not work as well. They tried to shake the chips even harder, and it left them with broken products.
They finally decided to crowdsource, soliciting ideas from people on how to get rid of excess oil on the chips. The solution came from a concert violinist who realized the problem resembled something they had seen. When a violin hits a precise tone, the resonance of the tone will cause water to dance. The violinist proposed they play a specific note to get the oil to jump off the chip, and it worked. Here was a solution not found by those with years of experience but from an unexpected source.
3 Steps to Seeing with Fresh Eyes
- Be aware that you are seeing with old eyes.
- Build up the habit of looking at everything with fresh eyes.
This means doing this differently, asking things differently, and asking different people.
- Ask for fresh eyes from non-experts. It is crucial to get in the habit of exercising your observation skills. Drive a different way to work or challenge a process you've used for a while. Ask someone who isn't an expert to give you feedback, such as the potato chip manufacturer did. You can learn from people with different expertise, country, background, age, etc.
After implementing these things, you will begin to see with fresh eyes, which will lead to the creation of new ideas.
To know more about finding creative ideas with fresh eyes, listen to this week's show: Finding Creative Ideas with Fresh Eyes.