Biased idea generation leads to higher risk
We are all biased, often leading to worse decisions than those a chimpanzee would make. Indeed, the late Hans Rosing, with whom I had many interesting discussions, received world-wide acclaim for proving not only that medicine students with top grades statistically knew significantly less about global health than did a group of chimpanzees, but also that Nobel prize winners in medicine were merely on par with them. Why? Because the humans suffered from bias. These findings point towards the fact that, when you deal with a new topic, you must explore and learn it in an unbiased way. The more you know, the higher the risk. The more at stake, the higher the risk. But these risks are negatively correlated to self-confidence. In fact, because self-confident people are less interested in risk, they tend to make very dangerous decisions, while thinking the very opposite.
Dreams are the touchstones of creativity
Statistics belie the common misconception that you can transform a eureka moment into a commercial success. Rather, it is the result of thousands of experiments, failures, observations, and inspirations from history and other disciplines, as well as an unbiased creation process which sees thoughts grow step by step. You cannot use traditional probability on a premature idea, simply because probability does not work when uncertainty is high. Moreover, novel things are, by definition, uncertain because they have never been tested before.
Big dreams often grow from the smallest of seeds, invisible to all but the most careful observers. As Bergman wrote, “My films grow like a snowball, very gradually from a single flake of snow. In the end, I often can’t see the original flake that started it all.”
In the film Inception, a crew of corporate dream raiders is pinned down under heavy fire as Joseph Gordon Levitt struggles to imagine his way out of their innovation crisis. Tom Hardy, an expert in the creative subconscious, advises, “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.” Provisioned with bigger dreams, the crew finds that its possibilities open up, objections drop away and that its members can move on smoothly to the next phase of their journey.
Christopher Nolan, the writer-director of that movie, was heavily influenced by the master of translating intellectual dreams (and nightmares) to film: Ingmar Bergman. Bergman said that his severe upbringing, mirrored in the film Fanny and Alexander, drove him to deeply explore his dreams while awake. “Hence my difficulty,” he confessed, “in separating the dream world from the real one. I became a great liar to escape the punishments.”
Indeed, dreams are the touchstones of creativity, as they emerge out of emotion-tinged memories, remixed and remastered by the logic circuits of the brain.
Dream Big – Start Small
So, where do you start then? The first step is to formulate a problem statement, something that really would make a difference if you could solve it. Then, you might ask yourself, how do I find that problem? Good question! One very effective way is to map key drivers in order to identify potential scenarios. Key drivers can be mapped out using PESTLED, leading to the identification of key drivers. Thereafter you can start looking for feasible things and simply try them. Also start searching for less feasible things that have a highly probability of high impact, and begin formulating a plan based on 2-5 scenarios that are very different and very promising. These scenarios represent the hunting ground for your problem statements – you must simply ask yourself “What if?”.
Once you have a problem statement, you can start idea generation. However, the most effective path forward is not to seek out experts, as they are usually biased and limited in their problem-solving abilities because of their repsective past experiences. Instead, think like a Hollywood screenwriter, and do not let yourself be limited by reality. Remember, you are going to change reality, but you just do not know exactly how quite yet. One of the most descriptive speeches with a theme of visionary thinking without knowing how to get there is John F. Kennedy’s proclamation that humanity would reach the moon.
“We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon…We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”
John F. Kennedy was bold, ready to think outside of the box and move forward towards solutions. In Magnus Penker´s podcast series, Play Bold, the prelude to the book Play Bold – How to Win the Business Game through Creative Destruction, many of the world’s leading experts in their fields give insights into how to start somewhere without knowing where to end.Listening to Professor Emeritus and brain of the year, Leif Edvinsson, and what we can learn from the space race between the former Soviet Union and the U.S.? How can cinnamon increase your innovation capability? Is the world linear or nonlinear? How can we use the Japanese -BA form to figure out the future?