The Unintended Consequences of a Non-linear Ideation Process
G’day peoples (and realistically also “bots”), have you ever found yourself wandering off the beaten path, not because you lost your map, but because your curiosity decided to go bushwalking? If so, you’re in good company. I’ve been there, done that, and got the metaphorical T-shirt.
When I was much younger and about to embark on my first solo travel journey through Europe I weighed up doing a Contiki Tour or just flying solo and “wingin it” to see what happened. A friend gave me a wonderful book called “The Path Less Travelled” (or something like that), which was very much about stepping out of the mainstream and following a different path. Today, in the process of ideation, we are often faced with the same challenge.
In the realm of ideas, there are two distinct paths. One is straight and narrow, goal-oriented, and often leads to predictable outcomes. The other is winding and unpredictable, a path of exploration and play that often leads to unexpected discoveries. This is the path less travelled, the non-linear ideation process
This is the essence of a non-linear ideation process. It’s a journey of exploration, where the destination is as unpredictable as a kangaroo on a trampoline, and the path is determined not by a GPS but by the twists and turns of our own curiosity and creativity.
In the world of ideation, we often talk about the importance of focus, of having a clear goal and a plan to achieve it. But there’s another side to ideation, one that’s less structured, more unpredictable, and, in my experience, infinitely more exciting. It’s the side of ideation that embraces the unexpected, that sees the value in the detours and the dead ends, that finds inspiration in the most unlikely of places.
This is the side of ideation that I want to explore with you today. It’s a side that’s often overlooked, but one that I believe holds the key to truly innovative thinking. It’s a bit like finding a hidden gem in a second-hand bookstore or stumbling upon a secret beach during a coastal walk. You never know what you might find if you’re willing to venture off the beaten path.
In my journey through the wilderness of ideas, I’ve come to realise that the most profound insights often come from the most unexpected places. It’s in the moments of surprise, of unanticipated discovery, that we often find the seeds of truly innovative ideas.
Take, for example, the story of the Post-it note. Its invention was the result of a failed experiment in the lab of a company called 3M. A scientist was trying to develop a super-strong adhesive, but instead created a weak one that could be easily peeled off. It was a failure, a dead end. But another scientist saw potential in this “failed” adhesive. He used it to create bookmarks for his choir hymn book, and the rest is history.
This story is a perfect example of the unintended consequences of a non-linear ideation process. A failure became a success, a dead end became a new beginning, all because someone was willing to see the potential in the unexpected.
But how do we cultivate this kind of thinking? How do we train ourselves to see the potential in the unexpected, to embrace the detours and the dead ends, to find inspiration in the most unlikely of places?
The answer, I believe, lies in the way we approach the ideation process. Instead of seeing it as a linear path towards a predetermined goal, we should see it as a journey of exploration, a chance to wander through the wilderness of ideas and discover the unexpected.
This approach requires a shift in mindset. It requires us to embrace uncertainty, to be comfortable with not knowing where we’re going or what we’ll find. It requires us to be open to the unexpected, to see the potential in the detours and the dead ends. And most importantly, it requires us to be curious, to be willing to explore, to ask questions, and to seek out new perspectives.
This is not an easy path to follow. It’s a path fraught with uncertainty and risk. But it’s also a path that can lead to profound insights and innovative ideas. It’s a path that, like the one less travelled, can make all the difference.
So, dear reader, I invite you to join me on this journey. Let’s embrace the uncertainty, the unpredictability, and the excitement of the non-linear ideation process. Let’s explore the wilderness of ideas together, and see where it leads us. Who knows? We might just stumble upon the next Post-it note