Sunday, June 9, 2019

How to come up with creative ideas: Think what will not change in future

In the last few months, I along with two of the talent colleagues from my organization have been experimenting with a concept that i call idea circles. In short, three of us meet regularly and have a free flowing discussion on the ideas and product problems needing solutions. The core measure for us for these discussions have been the number of invention disclosures/patent filing/new product features we can come up with. We are still in early days of our idea circles experimentation and I will later write in detail about how we function.

This is simply one of the ways to generate ideas but moot question that i get asked often is- what is the secret sauce for idea generation that could be patented and productized ? There's obviously no one answer to this question but what i started doing was to keep track of sources of inspiration for the origination of ideas. The intent behind this exercise is to look back at this list for my own inspiration and for those who are interested. As a result, i will start sharing these under the heading- 'How to come up with creative ideas'. It's premature to call it a series yet, let's just call it an attempt to gather and group the thoughts on idea generation under one umbrella.

In this kick-off article, I would like to share the inspiration i got from Jeff Bezos's recent remarks at re:MARS conference. Excerpts from zdnet article below:
For business leaders trying to build lasting success, the Amazon CEO said to think about "what's not going to change."
Bezos said people often ask him to predict what will change over the next decade, but asking what won't change over 10 years can offer potentially more valuable insight.
"The answer to that question can allow you to... work on those things with the confidence to know all of the energy you put into it today will still be paying dividends," he said on stage.
Furthermore, he said, it's an easy question to answer. "You don't have to do a lot of research," he said. "These things are so big and so fundamental -- you know it.""

I found this very profound and quite relevant as a method to generate creative ideas. Quite often, in our quest to find ground-breaking ideas, we take an approach to define the future state. And the raw materials to define future-state usually is the technological-shifts that are taking place. The technology trends become the basis of ideas for the future.

What Bezos suggests is, quite simply, a reverse of this approach. He says to ask- 'What will not change in future?' And then puts up a frame of customer needs on top of it. He says:
For Amazon, the obvious answer is that customers will always want low prices, fast shipping and a large selection. It's impossible to imagine, Bezos said, someone saying, "'Jeff, I love Amazon, I just wish you delivered a little more slowly.
If i reverse engineer and apply this thinking, it kind of explains the reason for longevity of my current organization, Citrix (30 years of  existence, since 1989). What has not changed in all these years (and what Citrix addressed proactively) is the need of enterprise users and admin to-
- have their applications and data delivered securely.
- be highly productive.
- give secure environment.

It's almost magical how altering the frame of reference to "what will NOT change" and not worrying about 'what will change", simplifies things and brings clarity.

I first learned about this technique from Vala Afshar's tweet which has the below message:

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