Borrowing Brilliance

 “Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others” is an extraordinary book about innovation, because its author, Dave Murray, claims that brilliance is borrowed. He believes that ideas are constructed out of other ideas and there are no truly original thoughts. According to him you cannot make something out of nothing so you have to make it out of something else. That is why Murray says brilliance is borrowed. For Murray, there are six steps in the process of innovation. He calls the first three of those steps the “origin of a creative idea,” because, he says, we find an idea through those three first steps. Step one is defining a problem. Murray thinks that the definition of a problem is the most important phase, because defining something provides a view of it. You may describe mountain climbing as being either a difficult task or limitless fun. According to Murray, some people define some problems very narrowly, whereas some others may define the problem from a very broad perspective.

According to the author, we have to identify as many problems as possible using tools like observation and then sort problems from “high level” to “low level.”
Step two is borrowing. This is the step for which the book is named. Murray suggests that it is good to borrow ideas from individuals or organizations that have a problem similar to yours. If your company has a distribution problem in an undeveloped country, some other companies may be suffering from the same problem as well. So, you can evaluate their solutions and borrow some of their ideas. Murray places an emphasis on the importance of similar cases. Your competitors can in fact offer the insight you may need when seeking solutions to your own problems. If you cannot find ideas in this way, then Murray suggests examining another industry, and finally looking outside business, to the sciences, arts or entertainment, to see how similar or analogous problems may have been solved in those fields.
Murray’s third step is combining. This is the creative stage. According to Murray, making combinations is the essence of creativity. So, using borrowed materials from the last step, find an appropriate metaphor to structure the model of your new idea. This is an important process. For example, you could borrow a check-in procedure from the airline industry to improve your university registration process. Registration could be done online or in person, but since the specific considerations are different, e.g. luggage is not a concern in the university registration process, you will need to adapt it. Where it is convenient, some parts of the metaphor should be extended or discarded.
The author calls the final three steps “the evolution of a creative idea,” because in these steps, the original idea becomes something different that fits the specific organization using it. Step four is incubation. Incubation is one of the strongest tools of creativity. The effort of combining ideas opens space for incubation. Creativity based on incubation is a process over which one doesn’t have any control, because much of the work is done by the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is in no hurry, and it always requires surface (conscious) hard work, before it starts to speak. Techniques like sleeping on an idea, putting it on pause, putting it away for a while, and listening for misunderstandings may help. In other words, often the most effective thinking is not thinking at all or letting the mind flow.
Step five is judging. In creative processes, more than one possible solution may arise. So one important step is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the solutions. Judgment is the result of viewpoint. Anything which you find good or bad depends on your point of view. Intuition is the result of judgment. This judgment process leads to creative intuition: an idea that has positive traits and a minimum of negative traits. The final step is enhancing. In the enhancement process, the author suggests eliminating the weak points while enhancing the strong ones. Ideas evolve through trial and error adjustments. The rule of “survival of the fittest” holds sway. The author believes in refining every idea. So in the end, we have to re-define, re-borrow, re-combine, re-incubate and re-judge it all.
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