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  • Writer's pictureDavid Fiore


Updated: Sep 26, 2017

You want ideas from creative people who have a record of fashioning new solutions for old problems? Then I have two rules for you to follow. 1. Ask the right people. And B. Give those people the time they need to be innovative. This post is all about B.

Innovation takes time. Fighting against this reality is fighting against nature. That’s because human ideas are an evolution of nature.

The main human feature – developed through natural selection – that separates our species from all others is our ability to generate ideas, put them into action and benefit from them. Once we people developed the ability to observe, hypothesize, test and confirm, the sky was the limit.

Actually, our limits are now well beyond the sky.

We’ve all been enjoying the stunning photos from the Cassini spacecraft’s final plunge into Saturn. Just think of the millions of innovative human ideas that went into developing not just that amazing machine but also all the systems that surrounded it to make its long flight possible, sustainable and enormously beneficial to us on Earth.

Having ideas is as natural to humans as running is to mustangs, as constant as the tides, as iterative as the phases of the moon.

And the best ideas, like most important accomplishments in nature, take time. Here’s why.

Our human brains are geared to find solutions. When a solution works, we apply it often. It won’t always work, but it only needs to work some of the time for us to believe it’s a winner and we keep applying it. This is called the “variable reward” effect and it’s “hard to extinguish behavior,” according to the psych industry.

This is familiar to people in marketing. We all know some version of the “Scavenger Hunt” guy, and the “Create Your Own Adventure” gal. Don’t blame them for always bringing the same solution. They haven’t been taught otherwise yet.

Their problem is that they have formed idea ruts in their imaginations. It happens to all of us. Especially when we’re rushed! We seek the known solve and walls immediately go up against other approaches. There are several ways to break down these walls: inventive brainstorming tactics, a change of environment. But the best way to tear them down is stop! Yes, stop working on the solution.

When we take time away from a challenge to refresh our minds, that break will often loosen the grip of the claws that hold our imaginations shut. And we come back to our challenge with a new perspective. It’s like how the sun setting allows plants to rejuvenate overnight. Or like the break between workouts lets muscle mend.

We’ve all experienced this in one way or another. So, take a bike ride. Make someone dinner. Sleep. And then go back to your challenge. And more likely than not, there it will be, a new glimmer lighting the way to a new idea.

Having ideas is natural, and it takes time to do it right.

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