Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Brainstorming with Your Mother

The old adage “necessity is the Mother of invention” is both quaint and points to an underlying truth that can be applied in general.  Brainstorming (Wikipedia) is the mental process of thinking up ideas to solve a problem, combine elements to innovate, define a future state, map a course of action, and so on.

Setting the Table

Here is the thought process: When a person has a perceived necessity, their mind goes to work focusing on possible solutions (or portions of the solution) and evaluating the merit of each solution.  For me, this mental activity is non-verbal, ie: my mind is not using words to process thought.

Pouring the Coffee, Buttering the Croissant

The Necessity, The Resources, and the Aptness of the resulting idea(s)

Using a sloppy analogy to Ohms' Law  for electricity: (Voltage = Current * Resistance) Necessity is like voltage, it is the driving force.  Resources are akin (in an inverse way) to Resistance, the more resources you have (smarts, knowledge, experience, material resources, etc.) the easier it is to come up with a better (more Apt) solution. There is lower resistance.  The fewer the Resources (a slobbering idiot sitting in the middle of a wasteland), the more difficult it will be to arrive at an Apt solution. There is higher resistance. (No offence intended to any slobbering idiots who may be reading this article).  Aptness then is like Current, which is where the analogy doesn't fit so well for the moment, but I am going with it in hopes that it sparks something in you.

Sitting down with your Mother

One technique in problem solving is to first clearly define the problem.  It is the vector, the direction to focus the thinking activity. When brainstorming for innovation, clearly establishing necessity is the first step, it is how you build voltage.  This is an odd thing because necessity is more of a feeling, a motivation, an impetus, drive, animating force, ambition, needling.  It is something that touches a core part of our humanity. 

Going back to the saying “necessity is the mother of invention” implies that external circumstances have set that persons’ internal motivation, it sets their voltage.   A parched person feels a greater sense of need to find water, and may even be motivated to drink ……. than a person who is merely thirsty.  

Common experience is that the internal animating drive is often induced by an external circumstance such as “we need to leapfrog the competitor” or “I will lose the customer if I don’t come up with the solution”, or even “I am going to prove to them that I ……”  There are many ways to self-induce a sense of necessity.  Procrastination is a favorite for a majority of us.

The crux of the matter is that it is a human thing to innovate and a human thing to experience motivation, impetus, drive, animating force, or ambition, and that an essential first step in brainstorming is to establish this voltage.

More on brainstorming later.  I welcome your experience and thoughts.

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