Filed under: Context for Innovation
By Adam Menter
BusinessWeek’s recent article about Pushing the Boundaries of Design made some timely and interesting points about how the best designers are pulling inspiration from diverse sources. Whether or not this is revolutionary depends on where you stand. Coming from the siloed world of business, it’s game changing. Coming from the eyes of a toddler, it’s old news.
Children are learning machines. In their attempt to understand the world they’ve just entered, they soak up and assimilate information from everywhere and everything. There is no such thing as a “lateral connection” for them because the world has not been bucketed yet – either by school disciplines or societal norms. When a child uses an ordinary object in unintended ways – such as the article’s example of using metal pie tins as Frisbees– it is not a revolution. It makes perfect sense. For my girlfriend’s brother, it was his parent’s old ’45 records that he learned to fling and toss about (much to the chagrin of his parents).
What’s great about BusinessWeek’s point is that looking for these lateral connections has the power to bring us back to our humanity. It gives us the freedom and permission to explore and learn – as we are hard-wired to do. There is an element of play to this, and that’s what makes it fun. But to use any ensuing insights and ideas effectively in design and business, at some point there is an element of implementation and focus that gives form to some really cool stuff. And that’s what makes it inspiring.
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