Wednesday, February 20, 2013

5 Principles of Creativity - Why it Works - Part 4: Cross Domains

This is the next post looking at why the 5 principles of creativity proposed by this blog work as they do. This post examines cross domain thinking.

Of all the creativity techniques, getting use to cross domain thinking can be the most rewarding and can sometimes lead to quick results.  It can also make you look slightly crazy. In short if you are looking to increase your creative output in the shortest time, with the least effort, then cross domain thinking is the best way to do this - as long as you are comfortable coming up with some fairly 'left-field' ideas.

So why is cross-domain thinking so important.

First off is that much of creativity is about the recombination of ideas. There a very few ideas that are truly original. Asking someone to come up with a creative idea that has not been thought of before is an extremely difficult assignment. It's a lot easier, and a lot more productive to look around at ideas in use within other fields.

The second reason that cross domain thinking is so valuable is because chances are, the problem you are trying to deal with has already been solved somewhere else - and solved well. Someone somewhere HAS to get that little irritating problem that you would like to solve right. For example, if you have a quality issue, then look to the airline industry - where they NEED to get quality right. If you have a rapid response issue then look to law enforcement. Again, what may be a valuable need for you is essential for them. Cross domain thinking provides ready access to well understood and mature best-practice solutions.

The third reason is that cross domain thinking (once you get used to it) is a lot easier than delving deeper into one domain. The learning load of continuing to expand knowledge deeper into the crevices of a single discipline is high whereas a large amount of potentially useful concepts and information can be gathered from a different field in a very short period of time.

Finally with cross domain you are more likely to come up with a unique combination that hasn't been tried before. If you want an example of how combining apparently unrelated concepts can be hugely rewarding just think of mixing wizards with boarding school and the success of the Harry Potter franchise.

There appears to be a growing interest in the value that generalists can provide to an organisation and a slight stepping back from super specialists. The benefits of cross-domain thinking may in fact be behind this new found interest in generalists.

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