Trapped by your own logic? Leave linear thinking and logic behind.
Seems sound, but in practice, the ability to freely associate does not always come naturally. A simple exercise of word association will show just how linearly our minds work. Likewise, a team trying to improve a product will most likely look to their closest competitor for new features-which means the end result will be less and minimal differentiation between the two. In another example, a group looking to brainstorm new digital strategies will focus only on digital. This shows how we get trapped by logic.
Whether you’re ideating on your own or with your team, you can multiply your chances of finding truly breakthrough ideas by combining concepts from different industries, fields and disciplines-the more unusual and unexpected the combination, the better. After all, a fundamental fact of innovation is that all ideas are combinations of existing ideas. Instead of looking to your competitors for product improvement, can you look at another company’s supply chain to inspire new features? Can you create a digital experience around an analog component?
There are many ways to prod your teams to explore unusual combinations. Bring everyday objects from around the office into your meetings, for example, and randomly select one to apply to the challenge or issue at hand.
MULTIPLY YOUR CHANCES OF FINDING TRULY BREAKTHROUGH IDEAS
Look beyond the obvious aspects of the object to secondary or even hidden meanings. A stapler staples but it can also mean attachment, organization, order, and aggregation. Look at a stapler’s physical aspects-it swings, is easy to load, is used in the office as well as for upholstery as a staple gun. How do you combine these concepts with your challenge? Alternatively, at the beginning of your meeting, have each person in the room contribute some concept completely different from your business, and combine aspects of these with your challenge to find innovative new ideas.
No matter how carefully you mix concrete, it will eventually crack-and under extreme conditions, collapse. But Delft University researchers Hendrik Jonkers, a microbiologist, and Eric Schlangen, who specializes in concrete development, have found an innovative approach to create concrete that heals itself under the right conditions, simply by adding a harmless bacteria to the mix. The bacteria in the self-healing concrete acts as a ‘healing agent’ when it comes into contact with water, and closes up cracks in the concrete.
Project Jacquard is a breakthrough innovation for textile manufacturers. Google’s top-secret ATAP division and Levi’s Eureka Innovation lab teamed up to create a jacket that acts as a touchscreen, and interacts with other tech. This is all because they spun a new type of conductive yarn that can be used on any industrial loom or garment machinery. The yarn works on a battery-run Bluetooth hidden in the jacket.
Ivan Poupyrev, technical lead at ATAP, aims to develop this tech so it can be scaled to allow garment manufacturers to produce these clothes on their machinery, and to integrate touch sensors, haptic feedback and more into any type of fabric-making our clothes interactive. This opens doors for all kinds of medical innovation as well. The possibilities are endless.
Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been inspired by nature-a lobster and an Elephantnose fish to be precise-to create an artificial eye that sees in the dark. Nature is always at the pinnacle of its own evolution, and the engineers were inspired by the different evolutionary strategies of these two aquatic creatures to survive in murky water. The artificial eye can potentially be used in search-and-rescue robotics, aerospace and astronomy, as well as in intricate medical and surgical procedures, where its ball-shaped, fingertip-sized, mirror-covered features can concentrate dim light and reveal fine details in the near-dark.
Automobile company Volvo has a reputation for building vehicles with outstanding safety features, and it continues to find ways to innovate on the feature that its reputation rides on. This time, it has been inspired by nature to develop an automobile collision safety system. Studying the African locust’s ability to fly in large swarms without colliding, scientists have discovered that this insect has a unique internal radar system-a motion detector behind its eyes that provides visual input transmitted to the insect’s wings that seemingly bypasses the brain. When the locust is on a collision course, the detector releases bursts of energy to the wings, which allows the locust to move out of the way quickly avoiding a potential collision. Dr. Claire Rind at Newcastle University, UK, identified a potential connection between the locust’s sensory system and a road traffic safety system.
Challenged by unsustainable food cultivation practices and growing obesity, but inspired by virtual reality, LA-based Koikri Lab has created a virtual reality dining concept that lets you eat what you like without piling on the pounds-or damaging the environment. Threading together hardware and software technologies with perfume and sound, Project Nourished promises to let users "eat anything you want without regret" and feel like they’re dining in exotic places. It does this by making users wear headgear called an Oculus Rift, and using an aroma-diffuser and specially-designed cutlery to mimic eating a steak, chocolate, or other indulgences.
In reality, though, users are munching on sustainably cultivated algae and yeast-based jelly. But it’s not just for fun-this innovation could help teach a new generation how to eat healthy, and also act as a therapeutic tool for those suffering from eating disorders.
If you’re a beer-lover, then artificial intelligence brewers, IntelligentX, will brew your favourite taste on-the-fly. Using an algorithm run through a Facebook Messenger bot that surveys interested customers, IntelligentX has employed AI to create four customized recipes that are constantly changed based on customer testing and feedback. The bottle labels are printed with a code and direct customers to the bot, which then asks the customer a series of questions that are interpreted by a self-learning algorithm. This algorithm increases in sophistication as it learns, creating customized beers and stouts, with recipes changing over time.