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How To Improve Your Innovation – Learning from Luddites

One of the roles I currently enjoy is tutoring a first year entrepreneurial business class. Each week, I run four work-shops with twenty students and get to see them converse and create their new ventures. However, one thing I have been astounded with is the level of technology use in the class. I am not amazed by the fact that these students bring their laptops, iPads and smart phones to class; what I am surprised by is the amount of time they spend glued to these devices.

Interestingly, I have also observed that the groups that seem to thrive and be the most innovative are those ones who focus on their face-to-face conversation, and simply use technology to record their findings. Some groups appear to be working as collective individuals, each focused on their own research and thoughts – and only occasionally combing back together to discuss their ideas. Even though they are sitting in close proximity to one another, they are far removed cognitively – and their innovation seems to struggle because of this.



Interesting research from the University of Toledo has shed light on the relationship between technology and innovation, as a group of researchers have explored notions of ‘Techno-Stress‘ – how technology increases stress levels at work and the effect it has on other work factors. One of their findings will be of particular interest to anyone with a passion for creativity:

Professionals experiencing technostress face decreased innovation in their tasks while using IS (Information Systems). Techno-overload, for instance leads to hurried and ineffective information processing and does not leave sufficient time to look for imaginative and innovative ways to accomplish work using IS.” (Tu, Tarafdar, Ragu-Nathan & Ragu-Nathan, 2011).

When these researchers studied the way people used technology, they discovered that those who were over-whelmed with new technological systems were much less innovative. This could be both because of techno-overload (the sense that we are always connected and should always be working) leaving no time to dream and imagine – but there is also another possibility.

Technology works by stream-lining our process into a repetitive way. Think about it – most of us go through some sort of routine when we open the Internet for the first time each day. We check the same websites, read the latest Twitter feeds, scan Facebook – and then log off. It’s a routine based approach.

This is the same when we send an email or create a presentation. The program is designed for us to use it in a certain way, that leads to efficiency with multiple use. This is great for getting faster at doing the mundane tasks – but it is not an effective way to create space for innovation.

Innovation requires thinking in a different pattern, or combining existing ways in new and exciting directions. Technology requires repetition and same-ness.

When we try and use technology to be innovative – we are setting ourselves up for a hard task. When we instead merely use technology to record our innovative explorations – we can begin to find some true success.

The best groups I work with have realised the power of face-to-face dialogue – including all points of view – and the benefits of letting their minds wander. These groups are the ones who come to our workshops with new ideas from their observations during the week – often from unusual and unique places. The other groups have instead spent their time attempting to be innovative while inside a Google Doc (and probably have multiple other Internet sites open at the same time!).

Technology is an amazing tool when we use it to assist us in the innovative process. But it can severely hamstring us when we begin to allow it to shape our way of thinking and interaction. As I have said before, if you are wanting to really spark some innovative thinking – break your routine and go for a walk, grab a coffee or visit a museum. It is when we encounter the new, that our mind will truly begin to spark.

The Innovator’s Responsibility

I’ve just returned from a meeting about an exciting and innovative new business venture. Whether it succeeds or not – only time will tell – but the process of our meeting reminded me of an important human activity that we all engage in. 

We had finished talking about this venture, analysing it from different angles and exploring possible options that we could pursue. Before we left, we discussed the research and activities that we had to do next – and then we allocated these roles to different people. 

This act is not rocket science, but is core to human collective behaviour. When we want something to be done, we give someone the responsibility and role to do it. This happens in sport – where we allocate some people to be defenders, or goal-keepers, or strikers – and expect them to play the role that they have. When a team is leaking goals, the media and public often analyse the defenders and goal-keepers – as it is their responsibility to stop their opponents from scoring. They don’t criticise the strikers, as they have a different focus and responsibility.

Obviously, this responsibility also translates into the business environment. Within any healthy organisation, it should be easy to answer the question, “Who’s responsible for the finances? Who is in charge of communication? Who manages sales?”. Usually, we can quickly point to the person who is in charge of each area, and assess how well the organisation is doing in this activity. 

When it comes to innovation, however, an interesting paradigm occurs. Innovation has traditionally been viewed as a mysterious activity, that sometimes ‘just happens’. As such, if I were to walk in your organisation today and ask, “Who is responsible for innovation?” – it is likely I would be met with some confused looks and requests for clarification. 

As such, most organisations do not have a structured approach to innovation, with little time or money (if any) allocated to developing new approaches, services and products, and no person responsible for increasing the innovative environment and gathering new knowledge from within the organisation. This means most companies remain fairly creatively-stagnant – having brief bursts of innovation in different areas – but not having a dedicated person or program to making innovation part of the life-blood of the organisation. 

There is training and learning available to help develop people into Innovation Inspirers for your organisation, but before this happens, they need to have the role and the responsibility. Simply allocating a keen person this position – even if it only occupies 5% of their working week at first – could prove transformative for how innovation happens in your work place. The act of naming the role, and giving the responsibility can help enact purpose in your employees, and lead to some dynamic change.

When looking for people who may be suitable Innovation Inspirers, check to see if they have some of the following skills:


  • They should have excellent relationship skills across all levels of the business. You want someone who can move between different areas and pay-grades without feeling threatened or superior. These people can create interesting networks between unlikely employees.


  • They should love learning – whether this is new facts about the company, interesting trivia about bacteria, funny jokes and trends in Bolivia – you want someone who has an insatiable curiosity and a constant desire to learn more.


  • Ideally, they should be great at asking questions and even better at listening. Often, the right question can open up new perspectives and ideas that your organisation has never thought of. The ability to listen – without preconceptions of what the answer will be – is also essential to discovering new learnings that are occurring through your organisation.



These are some ideas to get you started – but why not consider allocating this role and responsibility for innovation to someone in your work place? Discuss this with other employees and managers, and begin to plan for the new potential this role could develop.


Dirty Pipes and Mountain Bikes

The majority of the world would be hard-pressed to determine the link between cows, pipes and mountain bikes, but for the New Zealander this connection appears to be as crystal clear as our natural water-ways. It came as no surprise that following the recent botulism scare for our national dairy giant, a wealth of media reports targeted our “100% Pure” tourism campaign, casting doubt on New Zealand’s clean green image.


This connection between agriculture and tourism has been well established in the national psyche, with the AgroDome in Rotorua standing as a visual metaphor for the importance of these two industries to Aotearoa. When both sectors are thriving, all is well, but when news of dirty rivers, unethical treatment to animals, poor use of pest-control or the environment impact of bovine flatulence hits the press, tourism operators are quick to bemoan the economic impact of this on our carefully structured Kiwi brand.


It is difficult to deny the importance of farming and the tourism service industry on our national history, as well as their current economic significance, with the latest estimates showing them contributing a combined 13% of our GDP. From AJ Hackett’s popularisation of the bungee through to Gallagher’s mass commercialisation of the electric fence, New Zealand’s story is full of creative ventures from the farm and for the traveller. Our use of the phrase “Number 8 Wire” to describe Kiwi innovation shows the effect of agriculture on our cultural understandings of business and independence.


More and more people, however, are noticing that this binary metaphor is having a limiting effect on the New Zealand imagination. The late Sir Paul Callaghan campaigned for an innovative new push into the future that moves away from our supposed reliance on agriculture and tourism, two industries that are heavy on resources with relatively low return. Callaghan urged for a movement towards the ‘weird’, niche industries that many New Zealand industries are already excelling at, such as Weta Productions world-beating special effects or Rakon’s crystal controlled oscillators.


Diversifying our economic focus requires a collective innovative mindset, that is fostered through both the public and private sector. Unfortunately, New Zealand currently ranks 28th in the world’s most innovative countries, and even lower for our public funds’ investment in research and development, languishing at 0.5%. However, given New Zealand’s relatively small size and varied population, we stand advantageously poised to transform our creative future, if we choose to move in this new direction.


Throughout history, certain locations have generated hot spots of creativity, be it Florence during the 14th century or Silicon Valley in more recent years. These locations have been characterised by two common factors, being a gathering of eclectic individuals from a range of professions, and a common sense of collaboration amongst the area. Frans Johansson describes the Florence area as being full of “sculptors, scientists, poets, philosophers, financiers, painters and architects”, who – under the patronage of the Medici family – forged new ideas that shaped the world we inhabit today.


Similarly, the latest Harvard Business Review explored the open culture between organisations in Silicon Valley, finding “the development of much denser and more highly interconnected networks – which make it easier for people to innovate”. Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, has described this characteristic as “coopetition”, describing the tech industry in San Francisco as a place where working with your competitors can be mutually beneficial.


To develop the values of collaboration and diversity into our culture will take a dedicated and co-operative effort, from many sectors of New Zealand industry. For this change to be sustainable and growing into the future, however, a substantial shift must take place in the approach to learning that many of our educational institutes take.


Our nation’s teachers do an excellent job teaching our students under the dominant educational philosophy, resulting in some of the highest literacy and numeracy ranks in the OECD. Unfortunately, this educational model is still strongly informed by latent industrial-era notions of success, aiming to train students to do tasks in a certain way. This is excellent in developing logical thinking but does not create inquisitive, curious minds that can engage in deliberate creative processing.


British Educationalist Ken Robinson has been particularly scathing of the Western education system, stating that “we are educating people out of their creative capacities”. Instead of valuing diversity, play and new approaches to learning, we persist in assessing students based on their ability to retain and process information, rather than their ability to create and explore new possibilities.


New research on creativity and innovation is challenging the notion that creative ability is in an innate gift, and many researchers – including Theresa Amabile and Lynda Graft – are proposing new ways to educate and grow these talents among businesses and schools. These ideas are being adopted throughout America, with CHAD school in Philadelphia seeing particularly incredible results, including an attendance record of of 95%, 30% higher than Philadelphia’s average. This school, composed of 88% racial minorities, has seen 80% of their graduates attend university, a significant outlying statistic that is suggesting the value of creative educational classes.


As New Zealand goes through another period of criticism through the botulism scandal, we are uniquely poised to take a different course of action for our future. If we can begin to nurture innovation, diversity and collaboration into our national story, and expand our frame of thinking beyond tourism and agriculture, we may move into a creative future that is more sustainable, profitable and reliable than what we experience today.


Think You Can’t Be Creative? Think Again!

When I was growing up, the word “creative” could be used to describe someone in a similar way that the word “tall” could. Fellow students in class would be deemed by the teacher to be creative people, who could conjure up new possibilities while the rest of us un-creative type looked on. Similarly, over the past decade I have often heard my students and colleagues say, “I’m not creative” – often in response to an invitation to design or dream a new future for a situation.

The problem with this choice of language is it assumes that – like height – creativity is innate and unable to be changed. If you’ve finished your growth spurt and are sitting at 5’4″ – then you’d probably want to reconsider basketball as your chosen sport. You’re 6’6″? Better become a lock and use that height of yours to your advantage. You’re not creative? Then don’t try creating new things – you’ll only fail. Leave that to the creative type.

Unfortunately, this language can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, where you begin to limit your dreams and actions based on the supposed fact that you are not creative. As you continue to do things that you are already proficient at and avoid taking any creative risks – you prove to yourself again and again that you are not creative.




I am a passionate believer that creativity can be taught and that no-one is static in their creative abilities. There is countless research that proves the dynamic nature of creativity – and an excellent paper by Brigham Young University has recently added its weight to the argument.

The research team took a group of 90 undergraduate students from a range of academic domains and asked them to perform some creativity exercises, concluding with some self-assessment surveys. Then, they participated in a two-day Creativity Bootcamp, providing the students with the knowledge and actions to move forward with their skills in Idea Finding, Idea Defining and Idea Communication. At the conclusion of this camp, they then engaged in some more creativity exercises, and again reflected using self-assessment surveys.

The results? After only two days, the overall creativity results increased by 5%, with the greatest increases in their creative strength (ability to maintain creative thinking over a period of time, with constant effectiveness) and resistance to premature closure (ability to keep the mind open to more solutions, rather than rejecting ideas too early on). The creative strength of the students increased by 10% and the resistance to premature closure increased by 7% – all after only seven hours of instructor led training.

These findings – among many others – show the value of creativity and innovation training, and their ability to make real change in a short period of time. The researchers are planning on making this innovation training a 16 week paper for students to study, which will allow further research to be revealed on these benefits.


Want To Improve Creativity? Turn Off The Lights!

Two researchers from Germany have just published their findings on the relationship between creativity and light. Driven by a desire to see how much the physical environment effects are creative efforts, they created six different experiments which explored how darkness can impact the innovative efforts of university students.

Their first three experiments were simple priming exercises (when the researcher makes the participants simply think of darkness or light, often using sub-conscious word games), and the next three experiments were in controlled rooms where the lighting could be altered. In each, the students were asked to complete different exercises, that measured their ability to generate new, novel and surprising ideas, as well as testing them on speed and accuracy.

The results were very interesting. Students in the dimly lit room did much worse on the analytical tasks (involving logical, left brain thinking) – doing almost 30% worse than students in the well lit and control room experiment.

But in the creativity exercises, students in the dimly lit room more than compensated for their lack in the analytical experiment, generating 50% more creative answers than students in either of the rooms! (For those who are a bit skeptical, there are several professional measures of creativity that were employed in this study, that are accepted globally in academic and corporate settings).

Why did the light make such a difference? The authors suggest that darkness promotes freedom from constraints and the desire to explore – in effect, saying that when we are in the dark, we feel more comfortable to dream new ideas without self-limiting them. This is true in many of our lives – how often have you been lying in the dark at night, and dreamt up a new idea that would never have occurred in day time?

One of the biggest limitations on creativity is fear – especially fear of what others may think. Sometimes even just seeing others in our surrounding can induce that fear, meaning that our creative cognitive processing gets limited. By simply turning out the lights, this fear was reduced and the creative outcomes were dramatically increased.

I’m not suggesting that you turn off the lights at your organisation and insist everyone work in the dark – but this does have interesting implications for the creative process. Experiments such as this lend support to practices such as “Idea Walks” – encouraging others to go for a walk and dream about creative solutions to a problem – rather than the traditional brain-storming method, where everyone sits in a room and attempts to generate ideas.

What are some ways that these findings could be incorporated into your creative process?

The Unseen Benefits of Innovation

Getting fit and healthy is a fairly worthy endeavour, and one that many people devote times and money to. The primary benefit of improving your fitness normally comes down to a desire to improve your immediate health (you’re sick of getting puffed walking up the stairs) or to improve your look (wanting to get rid of the spare tyre around your waist).

Once you begin the pursuit of fitness, however, you begin to discover that there’s also some unseen benefits to having a healthy you. Many scholars link health and fitness to mental sharpness, believing that if we have a fit body, we will have a fit mind. Healthy living can improve our self-image and self-esteem, giving us a boost in social situations. People who exercise and eat wisely recover from operations quicker, are less likely to have major health complications later in life, respond to emotional crisis with more control and – if a major zombie outbreak should occur – will last much longer than their sedentary friends.

The same is true of innovation. Many organisation’s pursue (or – at least – say they pursue) innovation as a means to diversify their product and extend into new markets, in the pursuit of higher revenues and lower costs. This is a great benefit of an innovative organisation, and there are countless reports exploring the impact of creativity to an organisation’s effectiveness (see, for example, Creativity in Advertising: When It Works and When It Doesn’t, in the June edition of HBR). There are, however, a number of unseen benefits that also arise when an organisation pursues an innovative culture.

Within the New Zealand context, Whittaker’s Chocolate and Coca Cola have combined for one product, called Whittaker’s L&P. For those outside of NZ, L&P is an iconic Kiwi drink and Whittaker’s is an iconic Kiwi chocolate company. These organisation’s have made an innovative product, by combining these two icons in one product. The revenue figures have not been made public to determine whether this innovation is a success, but I have observed three other benefits that cannot be measured through financial analysis.


Innovation is Seen as Fun

In 1996, chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov took on IBM chess computer Deep Blue in a series of matches pitting man against machine. Results aside, what was of particular note was the fact that people around the world were rooting for Kasparov. They wanted the human to win and beat the machine, as a sign that human creativity and intelligence was still something more than what can be programmed.

Computer development is happening faster and faster, but the human brain outshines technology in its ability to combine ideas in unique and novel ways. Creativity is a distinctly human act – and is something that everyone can relate to, often in a positive bent.

Whether you remember designing LEGO creations as a child or dreaming up ideas with friends over dinner – creativity is fun. When an organisation is innovative and the public learns of their innovative efforts, this fun is associated with the organisation. In an era of public suspicion and doubt regarding companies – this human positive association is a great one to have!


Innovation is Progressive

When an organisation is seen to be innovative, it gives the sense that the organisation is alive and growing. It is moving forward into the future and sees change as a positive challenge to be embraced and enjoyed.

Xero are a great example of this. Xero have combined cloud-based computing with innovative accounting software, that gives incredible financial management tools to small and medium businesses around the world. Their innovation efforts are definitely cutting edge and seek to combine new technologies in new ways. As such, this gives them a sense of progressive growth – and an anticipation of what will they do next?

As Xero expand, it is likely they will diversify their products and create innovative new products. The expectation will be that they will also be cutting edge – and people will begin to look forward to the next product release. One only has to look at Apple to see how much of a benefit the value of ‘progressive’ can be to an organisation.

Innovation is Local

Most innovations start out small before they are released to global markets. As such, these innovations also have the added benefit of being grounded in a particular time and space, giving the impression of a local organisation. Within the age of global multi-nationals, the ability to appear local is of tremendous value to your organisation.

United Sweets is an NZ based candy maker, who started their business selling their sweets at the Hamilton Frankton markets. Within the last twelve months they have grown their business to supplying lollies across New Zealand and have the potential to expand into international markets – yet because of their innovative early efforts, they are grounded in the Hamilton context. Hamiltonians ‘own’ United Sweets – and if they continue to innovate and test these products locally, this will be a valuable relationship for them to develop.

How to Understand the Creative Process – #5 Elaboration

Last year, I, like many others, read the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. This book revealed many insights into the mind and habits of one of the definitive creative leaders of the past few decades – some that were good and worth emulating, and others that were unethical and worth avoiding.

One of the most striking aspects of the story for me was the relationship between Steve and Steve Wozniak, Job’s friend and fellow founder of Apple Computers. Although my generalisation is simplifying to the extreme, as Apple grew into the massive corporation it is now, Job’s took on much more of a “thinker” role, whereas Wozniak was more comfortable in the “doer” role.

In the duo’s early days as phone phreaks (hacking into phone networks), it appears as though Wozniak was doing the majority of the circuity work and design, whilst Jobs was dreaming about where this idea could go and develop. Even in the later years, Isaacson’s narrative describes Wozniak as being involved (and content) with circuitry and design of the Apple range, whereas Jobs was dreaming up new products that the world did not know it wanted.

The function of this team having a strong thinker/doer relationship was one of the many factors that led to Apple’s overwhelming success. If the two Steve’s did not have the skills and resources to implement their ideas, nothing would have happened. Similarly, if they had excellent programming and development skills, but had not learnt to dream up creative new ideas – Apple would not be in existence.

People are rarely as dichotomised as personality tests would have them believe; everyone has the ability to both think and to do. We do, however, have an inherit bias towards one of these two poles, which shapes most of our thought processes and daily activities.

Do you love to day-dream? Do you have an ever curious nature? Do you love to continually develop ideas in your head, improving existing ideas and rarely being satisfied with them? Do you start your sentences with, “Imagine if…”? If so, chances are you’re more geared towards creative thinking.

On the other hand, do you love to fix broken things? Do you start your sentences with, “Let’s do…”? Do you enjoy learning new techniques and up-skilling your current abilities? Are you good at making things happen? If so, chances are you’re more of a creative doer.

Each of these two roles in imperative for the final – and often most time consuming – part of the creative process – Elaboration. It is in the Elaborative stage that you begin to turn the creative idea into a creative reality, moving it from the intangible to the tangible and discovering how you can add value with your new creative idea.

This is the stage where most creative thinkers get bogged down. The reality of action can paralyse them, as they face a mass of emails, designers, producers, marketers, patents – and a wealth of other steps. Even within an organisation, this is the stage where the creative idea must become an innovative presentation that is ‘bought into’ by other members, to help make it a reality.

Frans Johansson – innovator, thinker and writer of The Medici Effect – popularised the idea of “Intersections” – the importance of people from different fields meeting together to allow new ideas to intersect and develop. This idea can be extended to the Creative Process to encourage deliberate intersections of people geared with different creative abilities – not just to help the Immersion/Illumination stage, but also to help Elaborate the idea into reality.

Often, creative thinkers tend to group with other creative thinkers – and vice versa for the creative doers. This is understandable, but leads to a severe reduction at the vital final stage of the Creative Process. To Elaborate and eventually implement your ideas, it is important that you learn to engage in this Creative Process co-operatively with someone with different skills to you.

This is the nuts and bolts end of the Creative Process, and is where most ideas fall down. Instead of lamenting your lack of action or lack of ideas, why not try something radical and new for your next project. Deliberately partner with someone different to you, who is known as a dreamer, or a doer. Complement your weaknesses with their strengths, and see if you can form a duo to help improve your creative success rate.


How to Understand the Creative Process – #4 Evaluation

According to popular folklore, Thomas Edison took 1,000 tries before he developed a successful working model of the electric lightbulb. A reporter once asked him, “How does it feel to fail 1,000 times?”.

Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

We can imagine that Thomas Edison’s journey with the light bulb involved many repetitions of the Preparation, Immersion, Incubation and Illumination stage. Many times he had break-throughs and inspirations that progressed the development forward. Yet, at least 1,000 times he would proceed to the fourth stage of the Creative Process – Evaluation – and decide to begin the process again.

He is not alone in his journey here, with most innovators having countless “A-Ha!” moments that progressed them forward, yet not the whole way. Sir James Dyson went through 5,126 prototypes of his innovative vacuum cleaner before his creative process was totally finished – and this led to the Dyson brand being the best selling vacuum cleaner in the United States.

The Evaluation stage is surprisingly simple in its practical application, yet difficult to divorce the emotions and excitement you may feel about your idea from the decision making process. For your innovation to be improved to the highest degree, however, this stage is essential to undertake well.

Also, this is a stage that is best done in a small group, as others are able to apply their more objective thoughts to the proposed idea. Although this can be difficult – akin to placing your baby on display to be critiqued – this will improve the Evaluation stage and provide much richer feedback.

There are two main approaches to conscious Evaluation, and I prefer the Appreciative Inquiry model. This model seeks to affirm what is valuable in the idea so far, and positively explore the future for how this idea could grow.

Simply put, ask these two questions of your idea:

  • What is good about this idea? Do not allow only a few ideas to come out – really exhaust yourself in stressing the good attributes of your innovation. Each of these good attributes may trigger a new connection between other ideas, which can be valuable in the next round of Incubation and Illumination.
  • What could be improved with this idea? Notice – we are not asking “What is bad with this idea?”. We are seeking ways that this idea could be improved, either by making the good elements better, or adding new value to the idea. A range of voices, from different backgrounds, will help reveal new possibilities for your idea.

Alternatively, your organisation can create a Criteria for Innovative Evaluation, to help streamline the Evaluation process. A pre-arranged list of criteria can help direct your thinking and guide future iterations of the idea to be more appropriate for your company. For example, these criteria could be:

  • This idea would be effective in solving the problem/issue our organisation is facing.
  • We currently have the ability within our staff and knowledge to actualise the idea.
  • This idea is likely to be supported by the organisation.

Regardless of the approach you take, consciously evaluating your idea and re-entering the Creative Process will produce creative ideas of a higher quality, with more possibility of generating profit and bringing change to your environment.

 The next post will explore the third step of the creative process – Evaluation.

How To Understand the Creative Process – #3 Illumination

In my last post, I talked about the Incubation stage of the Creative Process – when the ideas that you have immersed yourself in are played with and combined – often in subconscious ways – over a period of time. Each of the stories I shared ended up with this Incubation stage finishing, and a moment of illumination – an “Aha!” moment – which is the focus of today’s post. This Illumination stage is the often the highlight of the Creative Process, accompanied with emotional relief and excitement, as it has come at the end of a period of time when no progress has been made. This is the stage we long for – and we must be prepared to maximise!

British composer Howard Goodall relates the story of his creative process in 1992. He had been commissioned to compose a choral piece for a touring choir and was making no progress. As he drove around France, seeking inspiration and incubating various ideas in his head, he stopped at a small village called Embrum, which contained the oldest working organ in France. Goodall decided to enter the church and have a look at this piece of musical history.

As he was leaving, the bells began to chime. Goodall noticed the starting F# note, and suddenly other church bells began to resonate around him. Goodall paused, and listened for 15 minutes as a flurry of notes surrounded. Suddenly, these bells and the ideas he had been playing with combined in his head to form the inspiration for his piece Missa Aedis Christi. 

Immediately, Goodall wrote down this piece in musical notation – a task taking him from 7:30pm till 1am that night. Upon awakening, he then proceeded to play through the music (in his head) again, combining new ideas and seeing new problems – starting the Creative Process over. Many cycles of this continued in his process of refining his musical inspiration.

Goodall’s story highlights two important facts about the Illumination stage of the Creative Process.

1 – The Illumination stage rarely only happens once. Normally, the new idea that you receive will drive you back into the initial Preparation and Incubation stage. The first great idea that you come up with is not necessarily the best idea, and will need further refinement. Too often, people settle for their first idea and attempt to get others to engage with this idea as well. Once flaws in their thinking are revealed, their future creative processes are weakened.

When you have a moment of Illumination, celebrate it and then re-start the Creative Process. How does this new idea solve the problem? What ideas does it link with? What ways does it not solve the problem? How else could these ideas be combined?

Spending just a little bit more time with your idea could be the difference between it developing into a great innovation, or being ‘just another idea’.

2 – Carry a pen. Everywhere you go. That may sound facetious but I can’t stress this enough. The human brain has a remarkable capacity for creating new ideas, and a remarkable capacity at forgetting them. I have met with countless people who have talked about the idea that got away as they forgot to write it down when Illumination struck.

Often, these ideas seem to occur at night, so keep a pad and pen by your bedside. Jot down your ideas when they strike and give yourself the best chance at remembering the Illumination when it occurs.

The next post will explore the third step of the creative process – Evaluation.

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