Behind the Scenes: How Ideas Are Transformed into Productive Work

 
 

Turning ideas into practical solutions at work is a huge mountain to climb. We feel good when we make it happen, but do we really understand the process for making it happen over and over again on our demand?

Whether you are R&D, Product, Support, Sales or Marketing - we all experience triggers and create drafts in our work, which are key in helping us to uncover Other Ideas.

A trigger is a concept or a hunch that arises in our imagination. It can be sparked by something internal, such as an emotion or a dream, or by something external, such as something we see or hear.

Reacting to Triggers

When a trigger hits us, we might react in many different ways such as delving into deep thought, starting a conversation, writing down or sketching the new idea. Talking or writing about an idea ensures we won’t forget the newly triggered idea.

A draft is a preliminary outcome from our work process, something that can be observed and shared with others. This can be a prototype, a model, a manuscript, or any number of other things. A draft is something tangible — thoughts and emotions don’t count. Drafts allow us to share our ideas in a concrete way. There’s nothing like presenting an idea on paper (or on a digital screen).

The following diagram illustrates how triggers, drafts, work, and finding Other Ideas are intimately linked.

 
 

Work itself is the holy grail of creativity. It’s the only tool by which we can convert ideas from our imagination into real world facts. While working, we can turn mediocre ideas into outstanding ones; question things; experiment; give up and start from scratch; cheer ourselves as opportunities emerge; solve problems; and/or change direction. Our work never ends because it generates more triggers and drafts, which in turn generates even more work.

Work Comes in Two Types: Certain and Uncertain

Most of us like to feel certain when we work. We know that an outcome has a high chance for success if something similar has worked in the past. We’re already familiar with the choices we are making, and this certainty makes us feel comfortable. This type of work relates to things we can see or feel, skills we have, and knowledge we’ve acquired.

The down side to working from certainty is that the more certain we are about what we’re doing, the more we tend to achieve similar results over and over again. Even if these results turn out to be reasonably successful, we will still be captives within the world of the mundane.

Embrace Uncertainty or Be Disrupted

In business, too much certainty and working in familiar territory increases the chance to get disrupted by another company that is ready to explore uncharted territories and ready to make bold steps. Think of how yellow taxis and retail stores are being pushed aside by Uber and Amazon. For decades, the yellow taxi license was worth a lot of money, and yellow taxis were symbols of big cities such as New York City. Then came Uber with a new business model (and cars that aren’t only yellow!). Yellow taxi companies never developed a serious mobile connection to consumers and are being eaten alive by Uber.

The shopping mall and retail stores are suffering a similar fate. Macy’s executives have had their comfort zone taken away from them, and like many of their retail colleagues, are not used to making quick decisions. Amazon and Alibaba executives are (obviously) comfortable taking risks and are disrupting the world of shopping.

By not learning how to work in an uncertain environment, yellow taxis and retail stores are taking a hit. They may survive, but will end up a lot smaller than they were 10 years ago.

To get out of this loop and open the door for Other Ideas, we must embrace the second type of work: uncertainty. Embrace uncertainty, or be disrupted. It is that simple. How? I encourage you to read my book The Other Ideas: Art, Digital Products and the Creative Brain.


 
 
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Yonatan Levy