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Quantity Breeds Creativity

Quantity Breeds Creativity
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Quantitiy Breeds Creativity

One of the problems with our education system is that it teaches that for most questions there is one correct answer. Examinations with multiple choice questions force the student to try to select the right answer and avoid the wrong ones.

So when our students leave school they are steeped in a system that says find the ‘right answer’ and you have solved the problem. Unfortunately the real world is not like that. For almost every problem there are multiple solutions. We have to unlearn the school approach and instead adopt an attitude of always looking for more and better answers.

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To be really creative you need to generate a large number of ideas before you refine the process down to a few to test out. To make your organization more innovative you have to increase the yield. Why do you need more ideas? Because when you start generating ideas you generate the obvious, easy answers. As you come up with more and more ideas so you produce more wacky, crazy, creative ideas – the kinds that can lead to really radical solutions.

The management guru Gary Hamel talks about ‘corporate sperm count’ – the virility test of how many ideas your business generates. Many managers fear that too many ideas will be unmanageable but the most innovative companies revel in multitudes of ideas.

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The Toyota Corporation in-house suggestion scheme generates around 2 million ideas each year. Even more remarkably, over 90% of the suggestions were implemented. Quantity works.

Thomas Edison was prolific in his experiments. His development of the electric light took over 9000 experiments and that of the storage cell around 50,000. He still holds the record for the most patents – over 1090 in his name. After his death 3500 notebooks full of his ideas and jottings were found. It was the prodigiousness of his output that led to so many breakthroughs. Picasso painted over 20,000 works. Bach composed at least one work a week. The great geniuses produced quantity as well as quality. Sometimes it is only by producing the many that we can produce the great.

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When you start brainstorming or using other creative techniques the best idea might not come in the first 20 or the first 100 ideas. The quality of ideas does not degrade with quantity – often the later ideas are the more radical ones from which a truly lateral solution can be developed.

What do you do when you have a mountain of ideas and suggestions? You sort them, analyse them and try out those with the most potential. The really promising ideas are critically examined from the perspectives of technical feasibility, customer acceptance and profitability. If they pass these hurdles they move rapidly to a prototype phase. They are then tested in the harsh reality of the marketplace where a sort of accelerated Darwinism occurs – only the fittest survive. The interesting ideas should be kept in a database and allowed to incubate. When you revisit them later you may well find that you now see a way to adapt or combine them into something worthwhile.

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Paul Sloane

Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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