Making Creativity Come True

What does it take to turn a creative idea into reality? It seems like a simple question, but truly creative ideas are tricky critters: they don’t fit well with existing ways of doing things, they create conflicts between people, and they can even cause companies to go under. And the worst part is, truly creative ideas usually fail. After all, it’s their novelty and uniqueness that make them creative in the first place, so it’s no surprise that they don’t always work. Companies (and people) famously abhor change for exactly these reasons. Sure, that idea sounds great – why don’t YOU try it out and let me know how it goes?

So what makes a particular creative idea likely to be implemented, and when are you likely to be able to see your idea turn into reality? A new study by Markus Baer of Washington University in St. Louis asks exactly that. The motivation for his research, which appears in October’s Academy of Management Journal, is the observation that people and companies generate far more ideas than they actually implement, and that it isn’t the most creative or best ideas that usually filter to the top. After all, we all remember Windows ME and the KFC Doubledown (okay, maybe that one was pretty good).

Here’s the punchline: Baer finds that ideas are most likely to be implemented when the people pushing from them are motivated (i.e., they believe in the idea) and when they have strong networks of peers and supervisors. No surprise there. What’s interesting is how the variables all come together. When an idea is particularly creative, the person pushing it has to really believe in it in order to see it realized. On the other hand, if they have strong support from their peers and supervisors, personal motivation doesn’t matter too much: even far-out and risky ideas are likely to be implemented, even when the person who came up with it doesn’t see a ton of value in pushing it forward.

The upshot is that the value of the idea might not be as important as how everyone in the company perceives it. The best ideas might not see the light of day simply because they never found the right advocates, and mediocre ideas might make it all the way to the top just because they don’t rile too many feathers along the way. So next time you’re wondering how the Back-Up Bedside Gun Rack (“Reach your shotgun from the comfort of your bed!”) made it to market, just remember: they probably had other ideas too.

And ’cause it would be too good not to share, here’s the Huffington Post’s compendium of the Stupidest Products Ever. Enjoy.

Friday Finds: Cool Products!

For today’s batch of internet inspiration, we’ve got a pile of wonderfully clever home gadgets. Starting at top left, there’s (1) a soda bottle drip catcher, (2) a bathtub desk, (3), the “Hamdogger”, (4) a thumb page-holder, (5) an umbrella pot, (6) the “Lay ‘n Go” lego mat, (7) a clever no-mess paintbrush, (8) the easy “Drain Changle” de-clogger, (9) anti-theft sandwich bags, (10) the “Cushy Closer”, (11) a magnet tiny parts bracelet, and (12) the owl earbud-declutterer.

All of these products are wonderfully simple and creative solutions to otherwise annoying little problems, from tangled earbuds to a crippling lack of hamburger buns. In several cases the inventions were also serendipitous discoveries. Jennifer Briggs invented the Drain Changle after accidentally clearing a clogged drain with an errant piece of floss, for example. Spending a few bucks to support creators like her is a fantastic idea, but with a bit of creative adaptation and DIY spirit, these gadgets would also all make fun home projects as well. So feel free to get your hands dirty and impress your friends; although enjoying other people’s creativity is okay too.

Happy Friday!

I’d Scan That!

As QR codes have become more common, they’ve begun to fade in the eyes of consumers. Getting people to pull out their phones and scan over to the advertiser’s website is taking a bit more work, but with a 30% tolerance in readability some designers have taken license to play. I recently came across this fun compilation on Mashable of some of the most creative designs out there, with more at BitRebels.

Update: Click on through for some fun concept re-designs of those ubiquitous UPC bar codes.