By Costa Michailidis
Update (July 2013): Since we’ve put this list up, some of these ideas have become quite real, others, we’ve discovered, have been around for quite some time. Keep the ideas flowing : )
- Self-cleaning Cloths.
- Haircuts that have utility.
- A dog training service that trains your dog to do useful things, perhaps even income generating things.
- Garbage cans that recycle trash.
- Crowdsourced education.
- Using devices (smartphones, laptops, etc) as wireless routers. Imagine every device boosted the wifi signal.
- Shoes that clean the ground.
- Grounds that clean your shoes.
- Toys that build character.
- An alarm clock that simulates the sunrise and sounds of nature to wake you up.
- A smart phone that brews your coffee just before your alarm goes off.
- An app for phones to control your TV remotely.
- A “home” app that connects all of your house’s appliances to the cloud.
- A bedtime stories database sortable by what type of difficulties your child is having.
- An app that scans text from paper onto a screen.
- Retractable packaging - a serivce that sends packaging back to the seller for reuse.
- Lightning-powered pants.
- Lightning-powered power plants.
- Pants that heat up or cool down depending on the weather.
- Clothing that heats up as you move.
- Paint that changes hue when hit by sound waves.
- GPS for pets. No-more missing cat flyers.
- Laws that prevent the above technology from being used on people.
- Sailing on top of the atmosphere the way ships sail on top of the sea.
- Using one of those atmosphere sailboats to attach the elevator to space.
- Attaching an expiration date to money.
- Having a presidential debate with instant audience approval ratings.
- A series of tech educational videos for old folks.
- Social skills curriculm at schools.
- Teaching creativity at school.
- Toys that teach creativity at home.
- Video games that teach social skills.
- Remote controlled snorkeling robots.
- Underwater Greenhousing for Coral Reefs.
- Underwater farming.
- Indoor farming.
- Dolls of role model women: Rosa Parks, Hillary Clinton, Melinda Gates, Gaby Douglas.
- A counter for how many times Google searching has settled an argument.
- Sorting your email by who sent it to you instead of by date.
- Voice command emailing.
- A sink that doubles as a dish washer.
- Have the stearing wheel vibrate when you’re too close to the car behind you, instead of that annoying beeping sound.
- Hats with solar panels. No more dead cell phones.
- Refabricate pay phones as public outlets. No more dead cell phones.
- A totally customizable all-in-one healthy habits points system that’s enforceable.
- GPS tracker for expensive jewelery, so that when it gets stollen you can tell the cops where to look for it.
- A school that farmed some of it’s own food locally so that students could learn about farming, and systems in general in a hands-on way, maybe it could sell some of that food during harvest season as well.
- Word-of-the-day unlock screens for smartphones.
- To-do list on the unlock screen for smartphones.
- Starbucks set up at busy intersections right up along the street like a drive-through.
- Flash Mobs that do something useful.
- Cable car systems for traffic-dense cities.
- A mobile dating app with augmented reality personal ads/profiles.
- Planes that are remotely piloted from the ground so they can’t be hijacked.
- TED Talks from historical figures (such as: Abraham Lincoln, Aristotle, Cleopatra) written by historians and delivered by actors.
- A bracelet that measures your vitals and stores them in your own personal health database.
- An app that calculates the nutritional value of your food when you take a picture of it.
- Using trees to boost WiFi signals.
- Using cars to boost WiFi signals.
- Offer drivers in big cities a tax deduction for mounting a WiFi device onto their cars. The device is powered by the car, and the more cars adopt a device the better the city’s WiFi.
- An app that told you if someone near you went to your high school or college, or had something else in common with you.
- An app that gave live stats on parties.
- Massive Multiplayer Online Games that have a productive output or side effect.
- A spoof of drug commercials to educate kids on the dangers of drug abuse.
- Pockets that clean your smartphone screen.
- Smart outlets, that know how much voltage and amperge is optimal for the device that’s plugged in.
- Cars with multiple energy systems. Solar Panels, Batteries, a combustion engine, breaks that absorb energy.
- Cars that pull electricity from the road.
- GPS on public transporation so that we have live updates on when trains and buses will arrive.
- Packaging that decomposes into fertalizer.
- Self-sorting Trash.
- A dating site for old folks.
- A vacation website where you can search by feeling. For example: relaxation, excitement, laughter, peace.
- Do-it-yourself cell phone repair kit.
- The personification of smartphones. Name your device, let it decide things like which restaurant to go to, have it friend other smartphones on Facebook, dress it up for Halloween.
- Replace text emails with video messages.
- Napster for university lectures.
- Contests where the prize is a job at Google or IBM.
- Cell phone screens that double as solar panels.
- Order business cards directly from Linkedin.
- A web app that let’s you watch TV shows or movies with friends while you’re not in-person.
- Cup holder that keeps your coffee hot.
- Building material that sweats to cool the building down.
- A bar that only people going out alone are allowed into.
- A website where movie fans can request sequels and contribute ideas for the screenplay.
- A video game that helps you succeed in your career.
- A career exchange program. You mentor someone who’s looking to get into your field, and someone from the field you want to get into mentors you.
- A browser plugin that puts old bookmarks along side search results, so that you can be reminded of the things you bookmarked when you search with similar keywords.
- Touch screens for laptops.
- A marketplace that connects bazzars in developing countries with buyers in developed countries.
- An online platform that helps people crowdsource the completion of small tasks rather than donations.
- Doubling your headphones as earmuffs in the winter.
- Combining geothermal energy principles with the heat differential required to run a sterling engine. This could generate electricity in the winter, especially when it snows.
- A feature that allows you to follow, friend, and share contact info with someone by bumping phones.
- Computer Viruses that attack other computer viruses.
- A waterpark built at the beach.
- A remote controlled droid for safari adventures. Look out for that Lion! (You break it, you buy it)
- Flip-chart-sized paper airplanes.
- Bacteria-resistant money.
- A Doomsday Kit that held the information needed to restart civilization if we had a near extinction event.
Insights in Idea Generation
Most often when we start to come up with ideas to solve a problem, whether we’re alone or collaborating with a group, we evaluate the ideas as they come up. Consequently we stop at the first good idea. A better way is to defer evaluation, and just list out ideas, hundreds of ideas! Amongst many ideas there will be some real gems. Also, what’s typical during idea generation is for people to think of the typical ideas first and for novelty to emerge later in the process. Next time you’re faced with a challenge that requires some imagination to solve, try generating a hundred ideas for how to solve it.
Lastly, some of the crazy ideas above are real in some form or another, can you guess which ones?
Beyond the light bulb
By Amy Frazier
I’m getting burned out on the light bulb.
I see it a lot. Try doing a search for images related to creativity and innovation and you will, too. The light bulb has become an icon of creativity and innovation, even as the light bulb going on has become the most lauded step of the creative process.
There’s good reason. We all love the moment when the solution becomes clear—the rush of excitement, the relief of freedom from uncertainty, the burst of energy which powers us forward. In his seminal model of the creative process, Graham Wallace called it, fittingly, “illumination.” No doubt it’s a pivotal moment, we couldn’t do creativity without it.
But it’s not enough.
And what stands on either side of it, is a lot of hard work.
(It’s ironic that the light bulb – an invention made possible by Edison’s famously painstaking process – should have come to represent the quintessence of instantaneous insight…)
The moment of insight arises from within the context of attention, commitment, learning and mental labor. In his classic work The Courage to Create, psychologist Rollo May described the moment of insight as the targeted outcome of deliberate mental effort, aimed at our problem or concern. It was those things toward which we had bent our energies and attention which produced the a-ha moment. We don’t get big insight moments, he implied, for things we don’t really care about, or pay attention to. The more effort we put in to defining our problem, learning
about it and working it over in our minds, the more we are setting the stage for insight. “Chance favors the prepared mind,” Louis Pasteur said. This all takes a lot of work, including the years of study and practice we’ve invested in our own knowledge and expertise.
The phase after the a-ha moment can be just as demanding—and, as anyone whose brief moment of insight has resulted in years of labor knows, take just as long to play out. Here, we’re tested by the materiality of the world, and by time. An idea is quicksilver, ephemeral—if it’s ever going to go beyond that, it must become translated into the world beyond our minds. Whether the next step is to sketch the design, schedule the meeting, write the business plan, or fire up the sauté pan, you will need to move your idea into physical space, rearranging time and material resources to make it possible. And you may need to do this over, and over, and over, and over again – sometimes for years. “one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
This is commonsense to anyone who has spent time considering the creative process. I’ve been aware recently, however, of feeling burned out when I see the light-bulb icon; I think it’s being not only overused, but misused.
I suspect the words creativity and innovation often come to refer to, at least suggestively, outcomes more than processes; the light-bulb then begins to symbolize not ideas and insights, but answers, solutions, successes. This belies the hard work on either side of the quick moment of illumination by hinting that the flash of insight is all it takes. It also sets us up for disappointment, when light bulbs don’t start popping as quickly as we, or our higher-ups, hope they will, as well as missed opportunities, when promising ideas are not given the time or resources needed to fulfill their potential. This all can lead to a creeping cynicism towards the creative process, or toward our own ability to successfully deliver.
We’ve come to glorify the light bulb, without realizing that a lot of our creative work
happens in the dark.
How might we overcome this tendency?
- Educate ourselves in our own creative process so that we can identify not only with our moments of insight, but also the preparation beforehand, and the real-world work which follows.
- Have patience for the preparatory phase, because it may take longer than we care for; have confidence that this preparation is creative work.
- Build stamina for the development and implementation phase, because these will likely test our ideas in ways we hadn’t imagined; trust that just because it feels like grunt work doesn’t mean we’re not being creative.
- Find symbols for the whole of the creative process. I’d love to see an image search on the word “creativity” turn up as many results for preparatory labor and execution grunt work, as it does the fantastic, beloved light bulb.
By Stavros Michailidis
"For most organizations it isn’t difficult to get lots of creative ideas. What’s difficult is having the courage to make creative choices."
Most innovation doesn’t come from novel ideas. It comes form novel choices. Typically, when faced with a problem, people will explore relatively few potential solutions before quickly making a decision on how to proceed. This is represented below by the narrow grey diamond. In an effort to create more novel results people will engage in brainstorming or other ideation processes to generate more creative ideas. However, this turns out to be quite futile if the same old criteria and decision methods are used to make a final choice. This second scenario is represented by the blue diamond below.
The above scenario is not only futile, but harmful. When leaders ask constituents to generate novel ideas only to conclude on the same old safe decision, people become disenfranchised and embrace the belief that creativity isn’t worthwhile at their organization and they shouldn’t waste their time generating novel solutions.
However, if we also make novel choices we create the opportunity for innovation and novel outcomes. (green line).
Not only will this generate more novel solutions, it will also energize and inspire staff to be engaged in innovation leading to an upward spiral of creative competence for individuals and innovation capacity for the organization.
It wouldn’t be fair to end this article without acknowledging how difficult and risky it is to make novel choices. This is true, however this does not make it impossible to do so. By testing and refining solutions, identifying and addressing risk & exposure and placing small incremental bets along the way to a new solution we can pursue creative choices in a safe and controlled way.
More on how to think about risk & exposure coming soon…
…If you want to boost creative output.
By Russ Schoen
Imagine you are teaching a child to ride a bicycle. You make sure his helmet, elbow and knee pads are on correctly. You help him onto the bike and give him a gentle push and he peddles away for the first time.
15 seconds later, the bike starts to wobble and the child falls off the bike. You catch up to him and he is looking up to you, waiting for you to give him some feedback.
Would you say?
“I can’t believe you fell off. You’ll never learn to ride a bike!”
Of course you wouldn’t.
You’d probably focus on what worked and give a suggestion for improvement. Maybe, you’d say something like, “Way to go. You rode the bike for 15 seconds. Try again and this time focus on holding the handle bars straighter.”
Now, why is this second approach much more useful to a child? Because is encourages him to do what’s working and to improve what is not.
And here’s the thing. The same principle holds for yourself and for those you work with. If you want more creative output, give feedback in a way that supports and nurtures what is working and encourages to change what isn’t.
And one of the best all around tools to do that is PPCO.
What is PPCO?
PPCo is a thinking tool that is effective at giving people or yourself feedback in a way that supports creative thinking. It is a simple structure that is easy to use. Each letter in the tool has a meaning:
The first P stands for Plusses: What is good about the idea?
The second P stands for Potentials: If the idea succeeds, what other benefits might result?
The C stands for Concerns: Phrase your concerns as open ended questions that begin with the phrase How to.
The O stands for Overcoming Concerns: brainstorm ideas for answering your concern.
When you want to give someone feedback (including yourself) on a new idea or project, use PPCO.
An example of a PPCO
Let’s say you run a local sandwich shop and you are looking to grow your business. One of your employees comes up with a detailed recommendation to attract college students to the shop.
Using a PPCO, you would first share
Plusses: What is good about the idea?
So looking at the recommendation, really focus on the positive aspects.
Plusses: College market is huge, there are multiple colleges within 10 miles of the shop, this is a great way to spread word of mouth marketing.
Potentials: If the idea succeeds, what other benefits might result?
Potentials: It might lead to… increased profits, new store locations, more vacation time.
Concerns: Phrased as open ended questions that starts with how to.
Concern: How to make a really compelling offer to a college student?
Overcome your concerns: Brainstorm ideas to answer your concern
How to make a really compelling offer to a college student?
Do a buy one, get one offer. Offer free delivery. Offer a mid-semester and final exam special. Offer student groups, big discounts to cater their events.
Now imagine, the person who came to you with this idea. By giving them feedback in this manner, you have encouraged them and empowered them to continue sharing their ideas. And this is just one benefit of a PPCO
Why PPCO is so useful to boost creative output?
PPCO is a tool that when used well creates a safe environment for people to share new ideas and try new things. Instead of projects or ideas that aren’t perfect being “punished”, the emphasis is on learning and focusing on what working and tweaking what doesn’t.
And it is quick to use. You can use PPCO in 15 minutes or less.
Now, you may be thinking that something like, this PPCO tool is way too easy, how can it really make a difference.
Put PPCO to the test in the next 15 minutes
From having personally used this tool with everyone from teenagers to Fortune 500 executives, to teachers, I can tell you that it creates a lot of value and positive energy. But don’t take my word for it.
I want you to take it out for a spin and here’s how.
The next time you have an idea to solve a challenge or someone (your child, spouse, a co-worker) brings a new idea to you or you need to give someone feedback, use PPCO.
As a reminder,
- First share the plusses: What is good about the idea/project?
- Then share the potentials: If this idea or project was successful, what future benefits might result?
- Think of any concerns: share them as how to questions
- Overcome concerns: come up with ways to answer the concerns.
Go ahead and try the tool now!
Just like a child who falls off a bike needs a little encouragement to get back on and try again, one secret of creative leadership is so do most adults.
Use the PPCO tool and watch yourself and others peddle their way to success.
The PPCO was originated in the early 1980’s by Diane Foucar-Szocki, Bill Shephard and Roger Firestein.