What is a Really Good Idea?

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When do you know that you have stumbled on a great idea? When do you assess and  harvest the fruit of a creative session? When has idea generation delivered an invention? When is has a thinking breakthrough been attained?

Unfortunately, books about brainstorming tend not to provide an answer to these questions. At least, have I never found what an idea actually makes an idea. I have to suppose that has something to do with “never thought of” or something described by the German word  “Aha erlebnis”.

In TRIZ an idea is the complete removal of a contradiction. Mapping and analyzing contradicting requirements is a key component in TRIZ. In order to function properly in winter conditions a railway switch point should be covered from snowfall to prevent icing snow and so freezing the switch point. At the same time the switch point should be not-covered to let the train wheels maintain contact with the rails, so the train can pass safely in the wished direction. The complete removal of the contradiction is the wished Ideal Final Result: the solution has  all of the benefits, none of the harm, and none of the costs of the original problem. Mostly the problem is “solved” by adding heat to the switch point.

In lateral thinking  an idea is defined as an escape from current or standard thinking. The idea breaks through a thinking pattern or logic bulb. In hindsight, it could be concluded that originally some assumptions and restriction hindered the emerging of an idea. An idea is an idea when in hindsight is it logical, but can’t be envisioned without changing the original perception. The perception shift needed for it must be exactly formulated to claim the idea as a new idea. To change flights in the air without landing the aircraft is an idea, because it escapes the current thinking that changing flights has to be on airfields.

Jeffrey Baumgartner in his blog published here earlier, says that asking for a really good idea is a really bad idea in itself. A good idea complies to the criteria beforehand defined!

Never regard an idea as a good idea without having an idea what a good idea really should be, in that situation! Criteria can be set up and a good idea can be an idea that fits into the framework. The Blue Economy approach uses this to find really good ideas. Go here, to read more about this approach.

A good idea can also be something that is the fruit of a logical approach. For example, the idea to use plastic wrap around a cucumber seems logical since plastic wrapping reduce water evaporation. A cucumber consists of mostly water and it is great idea to warp the cucumber in plastic. An unwrapped cucumber will lose 3.5% of its weight after just three days of sitting out. Shrink-wrapping slows evaporation, keeping the cucumber fresh longer: A wrapped cucumber loses a mere 1.5% of its weight over two weeks. Many of us may intuitively react to this suggestion.

So a really good idea might be something that:

“Yes, your body is screaming despite everyone else shaking their heads!”

We will explore hunches and intuitions in Part 4. In the meantime, have a look at Part 2  of our eBook.

Photo: “Holding A Blank Jigsaw Piece” by pakorn

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