Seemingly every day, the quest for creative breakthroughs, for deeper insights, is evident at every level of business across the globe. Truly innovative insight has become the new Holy Grail of business growth.

But with this quest too often comes frustration and a feeling of being boxed in. These mundane realities remind us of a familiar old adage: “If every problem is seen as a nail, then every solution will be a hammer!” Never has that notion rung truer than it does in today’s fever-pitched creative renaissance.

A veritable “gold mine” of promised insights surrounds us. If only we had the right algorithms, the right “out of the box” thinking to magically unlock the secrets to the next innovation, the next marketing breakthrough.

Seeing Things Differently

“Thinking outside of the box” seems to be the new mantra for achieving creative innovation. What we are finding is that there is nothing mystical about finding the way to “think outside of the box”- to see well beyond what is in front of us to innovations that will be successful in the real marketplace. Yes, imagination is a must. But imagination alone probably won’t be enough!

Over the last two years, we’ve made a concerted effort against this challenge. There are two qualities too often missing from innovation-tasked teams, that when present, really can pay off:

  • Independence: to significantly elevate the likelihood of surfacing the outside-of-the-box ideas, it is important to move beyond traditional team brainstorming to thinkers from diverse fields of experience and expertise.
  • Genius: in addition to independence of thought, breakthrough ideation teams need to be powered by the fertile minds of genius-level, polymath thinkers.

Combinatorial Creativity

This new type of innovation team, consisting of genius-IQ thinkers drawn from a broad range of disciplines, can foster a synergy that relatively quickly gives rise to a large number of unimagined, yet realistic new opportunities. We have seen the process generate concrete, breakthrough innovative directions in several different business verticals.

Quoting investigative journalist and documentarian Scott Christianson, author of 100 Diagrams That Changed the World, “Most noteworthy of all is…the awareness that everything builds on what came before, that creativity is combinatorial, and that the most radical innovations harness the cross-pollination of disciplines.”