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The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

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Ideas and filters

For all my trumpeting of open-minded thinking, it's true that wandering the Library of Congress looking at random ideas won't result in the Nobel Prize. We're asked to find ideas to solve problems, and even if idea finding approximates explorative play, it has to eventually wander back into something resembling work.

The secret to balancing work and play is thinking of the mind as a filter. Instead of binary switches—open vs. closed, creative vs. routine—we want a sliding scale of openness that we can control. If you want new ideas, you have to slide toward openness, turning some filters off, exploring thoughts you'd ordinarily reject offhand. Do this until some interesting ideas are found; then, gradually turn more filters on until you're left with a handful that are both good and practical for the problem at hand. Choosing which filters to apply when has much to do with successful innovation; it's not just having an open mind, it's also knowing when to postpone certain judgments, and then when to bring them back in. If a mind is always open, it never finishes anything; if a mind is never open, it never starts.

We live most moments with many filters. Consider eyesight: at best we see 160 degrees around us, less than 50% of the visual information nearby. Dogs hear more sounds and cats smell more odors than we do. Even as children, we learn rules of conduct and behavior, filtering out possibilities both to be safe and to fit into society. And, perhaps worse for creativity, ...

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