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Let's hammer in the message of yesterday's lesson by starting this one with a quote from Keith Sawyer, a professor of psychology and education.

"Research has shown that when we bring in influences from different sources, we get better at discovering new and unexpected combinations. Because of this, I try to spend a lot of time with people outside of my scientific field and I travel as often as I can. You should never miss an opportunity to meet new people or learn new things. That's the best way to recharge your creative batteries!"

Yesterday we concluded that great ideas are often a combination of two or more existing solutions. The better you are at combining solutions in an unexpected way, the more creative ideas you will generate. It's not a coincidence that the author of Our Final Invention, James Barrat, concludes that "complex pattern recognition" is the most important skill to have in a world where robots with artificial intelligence have taken over most of our jobs...

In addition to reading, traveling, and spending time with people outside your industry there are a lot of exercises that help you create unexpected connections.

Here are two I like to use:

Add "doesn't"

When you want to rethink something, just write down 2-3 traits about the thing you want to change. If I were to re-imagine what a psychologist does, I could start by defining some aspects, such as:


  1. A psychologist works with face-to-face therapy.

  2. A psychologist treats mental disorders.

I would then add "doesn't" to each statement, and then force myself to come up with ideas based on that statement. A psychologist who doesn't treat mental disorders might help people become more creative using a micro-course. 

Add an unexpected reference by force

Start with a problem you are facing right now. Then create a list of six things you like a lot right now. It could be an app you use a lot, a song you listen to on repeat or a restaurant you've just heard about. Make sure to number them (1-6). Now grab a dice and roll it. The number that you get will tell you what your problem must be inspired by. Yes, this is may seem weird or stupid, but it's a lot of fun.