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Don't Think Different, Think About Different Things

13-Jan-2012

by Art Markman

This post is about innovation. But before we get started, imagine the produce area in your local supermarket.

Were you able to do it?

That seems like a strange question to ask. Of course you could. But the strangeness of the question says something fundamental about the way your memory works. Memory provides you with the information it thinks you need when it thinks you need it. When you are walking through the supermarket (or asked to think about it), information about food and shopping is easy to recall. When you are at a football game, your knowledge of the rules and types of plays is easy to think about, but the texture of fresh romaine lettuce is not.

Now back to innovation.

When you need to solve a problem in a new way, you have two options. One is pure research and development. The other requires finding knowledge (which we already know) that offers a novel solution. When you gather a group for an ideation session, you are betting that the group already knows how to solve the problem, they just have to find the answer.

As I just showed you, pulling information from memory happens effortlessly. That means that in order to solve a problem, you need to ask your memory the right question.

Read full article. Cited in Harvard Business Review eNews Update, Friday 13 January 2012.

 
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