6 Techniques for Creative Revolutions Article by: Earl Nightingale

What are some of the best techniques for inspiring a creative revolution – to more effectively to solve problems, make decisions, achieve goals, and better fulfill our ultimate human responsibility, which is to think? Here are a few I have learned:

Think Combination. Everything you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell during the day offers you the opportunity to consider new combinations. When you brush your teeth, you might think of a toothbrush that contains the toothpaste in the handle. You might combine your mirror with a motto reminding you to start the day right. It might read, “How can I increase my service today?” or “Have no small dreams!” That’s thinking combination. A simple pencil is a combination of wood, carbon, rubber, paint, and metal. You can come up with great ideas that can lead to profits, patents, and even billiondollar companies by finding new combinations yourself. Here are a few ways entrepreneurs have profited from thinking combination.

A French company invented an ordinary snorkel combined with a radio — the first battery-powered snorkel with an FM radio receiver built in, and it doesn’t even require an earpiece. The product, AQUA FM, uses unique bone conduction technology to transmit sound through the teeth and into the inner ear, providing clear, amazing sound.

In another example, companies like Vonage and Skype have revolutionized telephone service by combining a telephone and the Internet, and the big telecom companies are clambering to keep up. Telephone companies have always charged by the minute for long distance services, but the Internet is different. Broadband is charged at a standard monthly rate for unlimited use. VOIP (Voice over IP) start-up companies have used this to their advantage and thought differently about telephone service. Why pay by the minute to send data via your telephone service when you have a data tunnel you are already paying for — your broadband connection? Simply piggyback on that by connecting your phone to your broadband and talk to anyone in the world for a fraction of the cost.

Think Adaptation. Velcro was created through adaptation. In 1948, George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, returned from a walk through a field of weeds one day and found some cockleburs [burrs] clinging to his cloth jacket. After studying one of the cockleburs under a microscope, he noticed it was a maze of thin strands with burrs (or hooks) on the ends that cling to fabrics or animal fur. He then recognized the potential for a practical new fastener. It took eight years to experiment, develop, and perfect the invention, but now Velcro is a well-known, incredibly useful product. Velcro has even been further adapted for making all kinds of products better — from shoes that use Velcro instead of laces, to adjustable Velcro wrist straps on boxing gloves.

In another example, designers took tiny flexible optical fibers developed for high-energy physics experiments and wove them into ordinary fabric. This adaptation created a new fabric called Luminex that glows, literally. It’s not shiny and it’s not glow in the dark; it gives off its own light. Now Luminex is being used in stage costumes, handbags, and curtains as well as clothing.*

During the next year you are going to see the result of people thinking adaptation and coming up with ideas worth millions of dollars. Why couldn’t one of these people be you? The only limit to what you can achieve by adapting old products to new uses — old methods to new applications — is the limit of your own creativity.

Think Substitution. When you think substitution, ask yourself how you might substitute a different idea, product, or material for the one now used. For example, soy burgers are the vegetarian’s substitute for meat products.

And plastic lumber is now used as a substitute for concrete, wood, and metals. Yes, recycled plastic lumber (RPL) is a woodlike product made from recovered plastic or recovered plastic mixed with other materials. This plastic lumber can then be transformed by consumers and manufacturers into a wide range of products, including decks and docks, landscape timbers, parking stops, picnic tables, benches, trash receptacles, planters, and numerous custom applications (think adaptation!).

You can also take an existing product and make it better through thinking substitution. Take, for instance, luggage with wheels. This was a wonderful invention because it eliminated the need to carry luggage. But, for years the wheels were made of cheap plastic, often only a step better than dragging your luggage on the ground. It wasn’t until recently that someone decided to replace these cheap plastic wheels with the high-speed ball-bearing efficient wheels from Rollerblade skates. This substitution created a better wheeled suitcase and made for happier travelers.

In short, don’t assume because a particular thing has always been used in the past, that you have to use it now. Perhaps there’s a substitution that will work better or last longer, or cost less, or be lighter, or more colorful, and so forth. Think substitution.

Think magnification. Think big! Examples include skyscrapers, the Pentagon, king-size soft drinks, and the IMAX theatre. IMAX was started by Canadian filmmakers/entrepreneurs who wanted bigger and better theaters. Now IMAX is the ultimate movie experience, helping people see more, feel more, and hear more.

Vehicles are getting bigger too. We’ve had trucks and vans for many years. But in recent years soccer dads and carpool moms have demanded a different large vehicle — the SUV. The Hummer, Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade, and Suburban are just a few of the behemoths that safely courier our children to and from their daily activities.

Yet, while most car companies are going larger, BMW went the opposite way, which takes us to our next thinking strategy…

Think Minification. Think small! In the midst of the SUV explosion, BMW was thinking small and acquired the rights to the Mini Cooper. This just proves that magnification and minification can succeed in the same market concurrently.

And beyond the car industry, we find technology striving for minification. The iPod is a small portable digital audio player designed and marketed by Apple Computer. And even though it’s already a small product, Apple continues to release smaller and smaller versions of the popular iPod with larger and larger hard drives (thinking minification and magnification!).

Clothing designers are thinking small too. There are entrepreneurs who specialize in baby clothes and small dog clothes, such as the Baby Ultimate Child Clothing and Baby Clothes Boutique (www.babyultimate.com) and the Pure Country Pet Boutique (www.purecountry.net).

Think rearrangement. Turn things around, backward, upside down or inside out. James Dyson, founder of Dyson vacuum cleaners, was tired of buying vacuums that lost suction as they filled up. Rather than improve on the existing designs, he started from scratch and rearranged the entire vacuum in a new and different, and ultimately highly successful, way. Dyson’s new arrangement used cyclonic separation instead of a bag. Eight cylindrical cyclones whirl dirt and air at speeds up to 600 m.p.h. The machine uses centrifugal force to trap the dirt and expel the air. And, there is no filter to clog, which means the Dyson stays powerful. How successful has it been? In the past few years, he has sold over $10 billion worldwide. I’d say his rearrangement was a success!

How about turning something upside down? What’s the problem with typical ketchup, mustard, and salad dressing bottles? It’s hard to get the contents out, especially when the contents are running low. The solution? Manufacturers are now creating the bottles to stand upside down so the contents are always easy to get out.

What do you work with that can benefit from this kind of thinking? What can you turn around … revolutionize?

Rearrange things, change pace, alter sequence, start from scratch. This type of thinking works for everyone. For instance, salespeople can use these creative techniques to discover new applications for products or services, new ways to emphasize customer benefits, new ideas or product combinations to solve customer problems, better ways to organize their time and effort.

If you want to spur your mind to new action, think combination, adaptation, substitution, magnification, minification, and rearrangement. You’ll be amazed with the ideas you’ll develop. Before long, you’ll be thinking in each of these ways as a matter of daily course. This kind of thinking increases the scope of your mind power and enables you to achieve fuller use of your mental capabilities. Let your mind work for you. Take nothing for granted. Everything can be changed, improved. The only thing you can count on for certain is change. Don’t wait for it — be an agent of change. Help bring change about.

6 Techniques for Creative Revolutions:

  1. Think Combination
  2. Think adaptation
  3. Think substitution
  4. Think Magnification
  5. Think Minification
  6. Think Rearrangement

Learn more about Earl Nightingale and his all-time bestselling programs The Strangest Secret and Lead the Field. Edited and updated by Catherine Cairns.
*Source Time magazine Coolest Inventions of 2003.