Where Science Meets Muse

Thou Shalt Have No Innovation Idols!

Posted by Plish on April 24, 2009

There Should Be No Sacred Cows When it Comes to Innovation

There Should Be No 'Sacred Cows' When it Comes to Innovation

You would think that in the realm of innovation there would be no ‘idols’ or ‘sacred cows’, yet there are.

What do I mean by this?

There are certain practices that people are afraid to challenge because…well you just don’t!

Two practices that come to mind right away are:

1. Brainstorming

2. Mind Mapping

One would think that people who are creative and innovative would be the most open to different techniques and processes to generate ideas – right?


For some reason, creative types seem to hold on to certain methods (or innovation personalities, or schools of thought) as if they’re sacred – treat them as a sort of ritual which simply should not be changed.

Don’t think it’s true? Just check this post here and my post regarding brainstorming and you’ll see the passion with which people argue for brainstorming.  It’s especially interesting how defensive people get. 

What they don’t realize is that by getting defensive they are in fact saying:

“The human race has no capacity for improving the process of idea generation (or creative buy-in, etc.) beyond that which we experience in brainstorming ( or through mind mapping, etc.).”

Think about that for a moment or two then think about this:

With all the advances being made in the cognitive sciences, with all the advances the human race has made in the 200,000 some years of its existence, can two techniques discovered within the last 100 years really be the pinnacle of human achievement regarding idea generation?

And think about this:

If you only use a certain technique for generating ideas- your ideas/solutions will have a similar pedigree and it might not be the best breed of solution for a particular problem.

Please don’t misunderstand – I use mindmaps, I use modified brainstorming.  But, I also think that there are better methods and technologies for idea generation/problem solving/etc., only we’ll never find them if we don’t let go of our inordinate belief in the sacredness of certain techniques.

What are your thoughts?


10 Responses to “Thou Shalt Have No Innovation Idols!”

  1. dhutchis said

    I love outside the box thinking. Well put – so what’s better?

  2. Plish said

    Great question!
    Some thoughts:
    There are benefits in sharing ideas, but there also should be some distance between thoughts and thinkers- electronic brainstorming is better than traditional for example, but still has problems.
    I think any idea generation processes can be improved by providing non-biased, anonymous emotional feedback into the process.
    Perhaps a virtual brainstormer could provide concepts from different but similar industries as starting points for generating new ideas?
    Parallel mind mapping where someone else’s idea gets placed into your map and you have to build off it and vice versa?

    I think that effective, collegial idea generation is a field that is ripe for experimentation, especially with technology and cognitive science advancing as it is.

    Most of all, I believe that it’s essential that people keep open minds and use their creativity to improve the processes of idea generation as opposed to riding laurels of past methodologies.

    Feel free to chime in! You’re a goalie, you’re used to seeing the world differently 😉

  3. dhutchis said

    I like the electronic brainstorming idea…I am also a teacher…and it has been shown that if you have kids discuss something electronically – even if they are still in the classroom sitting beside each other – more is discussed, in more depth, and those normally reluctant to share will speak up – and even stand up to the stronger personalities in the room.


  4. Plish said

    Very cool about the electronic discussions with kids!! That’s fascinating-thanks!

    Twitter-storming…I think you’re on to something….

  5. […] Plish placed an interesting blog post on Thou Shalt Have No Innovation Idols! « ZenStorming – Where Science …Here’s a brief overviewTagged: brainstorming, creativity, innovation idols, mindmapping, sacred cows, taboo. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. … […]

  6. nilsjohan said

    “With all the advances being made in the cognitive sciences, with all the advances the human race has made in the 200,000 some years of its existence, can two techniques discovered within the last 100 years really be the pinnacle of human achievement regarding idea generation?”

    haha, you’re absolutley right.

    And this thing of “innovation idols” is so common in the innovation industry.

    But it’s not an easy job, the balance between rules and play are hard. Should there be a meta-creativity school? based on what methods? 🙂

    Thanks for a good post,

    I just started a blog on creativity, check it out. http://thoughtsoncreativity.wordpress.com/

  7. Plish said

    Hi Nils!

    I like the idea of a meta-creativity school though I think Edward De Bono might claim he’s already got one cooking. You’re spot on about the balancing act that must be done.

    Great first post in your blog! Looking forward to more!

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