The greatest ideas typically result from Abductive Reasoning, where one looks at a set of seemingly unrelated data with the understanding that a solution is there.
Two additional reasoning methods can be used to develop ideas and explore opportunities, Deductive and Inductive Reasoning.
Deductive Reasoning (DR) begins with a Theory, an observation or speculation about a particular interest or subject; a belief. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, a definition of Theory is a “supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.” A Hypotheses is then formed around the Theory, to provide an explanation that is not based on concrete evidence. Through a series of testing, observations and prototyping the Theory is proven either true or false. DR works from the general to the specific.
Application: DR works well with existing ideas (products, services, beliefs). Implementing DR in a creative session can expose weaknesses of a particular idea, thus providing an opportunity to improve the idea, or create a new one.
Inductive Reasoning (IR) works from the specifics (observations, testing, prototyping) to the general (The Theory).
Application – IR is a great tool that can be used by entrepreneurs to identify and capitalize on trends. By observing cultural nuances, social shifts and early-adopter behaviors, theories can be concluded and turned into entrepreneurial opportunities.
Having a broader understanding of reasoning and logic, additional approaches are available for identifying and generating ideas.
Complacency and apathy are the beginning of a downward spiral; for individuals and organizations. In the context of productivity and accomplishment, a forward tension exists between two factors; Skill Level and Challenge Level.
Skill – the ability to do something well; expertise Challenge – a task or situation that tests someone’s abilities
Both factors are organic, ever-changing and expandable. Therefore individuals and organizations have the ability to maximize the output of ideas, innovations and productivity by identifying and intentionally balancing the Skill and Challenge levels.
Flow theory, coined by Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is the mental state of performance when an individual with a task at hand experiences energized focus, complete involvement, and achievement.
Flow is focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task. (Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman)
According to Mihaly, three condition must be present to achieve Flow:
One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals. This adds direction and structure to the task.
One must have a good balance between the perceivedchallenges of the task at hand and his or her own perceivedskills. One must have confidence that he or she is capable to do the task at hand.
The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows him or her to adjust his or her performance to maintain the flow state.
If one possesses highly developed and unique skills, and applies the expertise in a non-challenging context – feelings of relaxation, boredom and dissatisfaction will accompany the task, ultimately leading towards apathy and complacency. Similarly, if one places themselves in a highly challenging situation without having the right skill set, feelings of anxiety and worry will arise – also resulting in apathy and complacency.
Therefore, by balancing high levels of Skill and Challenge, an individual and organizations are able to generate high output of ideas, productivity, satisfaction and forward momentum.
Given the organic nature of Skill and Challenge, one must continually strive to develop skills, and apply the skills in highly challenging situations.
At the beginning of the day, every organization must ask themselves the provocatively dumb “Why?” question; “Why are we doing this?”
Non-monetary success cannot be determined without understanding your true purpose behind what you do? Getting into business to make money is not the purpose, it is merely a result of the vision that birthed the idea which has been translated into a viable business.
Abductive Reasoning is at the heart of Creativity, including Innovation, Design Thinking, and all other methods and visionary goals. The most ground-breaking ideas resulted from looking at a set of seemingly unrelated components.
Abductive reasoning typically begins with an incomplete set of observations and proceeds to the likeliest possible explanation for the set. Abductive reasoning yields the kind of daily decision-making that does its best with the information at hand, which often is incomplete. (Source Link)
Our imaginations follow this type of thinking pattern. It is ideas and thoughts that at first appear absurd and ridiculous. Einstein regularly experimented using this method to explore the world around him.
Action: Using small note cards, write down anything that captures your attention during the course of a week (things, objects, ideas, products/services used, food consumed, tangible, intangible, etc.). At the end of the week, take the inventory of cards and force yourself to find relationships, trends, opportunities and ideas – regardless of how ludicrous that may be.