Behind the Scenes: How Ideas Are Transformed into Productive Work


We all have our own unique approach to work. No matter what we do, we all are moved to action by triggers and produce drafts in our work. Both are key generators in helping us to uncover Other Ideas — those special ideas that can create a real impact, that connect between things that don’t seem to be connected.

Working with triggers and drafts

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.

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 that would allow us to share our ideas in a concrete way. Anyhow, the draft must be something tangible — thinking about it doesn’t count.

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; 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. How? I encourage you to check out my new book The Other Ideas: Art, Digital Products and the Creative Mind


Discover the power of uncertainty.

By reading The Other Ideas, you will learn how to harness uncertainty and transform it into creative power to successfully implement your innovation projects.

Learn more