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 perceived challenges of the task at hand and his or her own perceived skills. 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.
Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi lives his life and operates his business by a simple credo:
1. Ready. Fire! Aim.
2. If it ain’t broke…Break it!
3. Hire crazies.
4. Ask dumb questions.
5. Pursue failure.
6. Lead, follow…or get out of the way!
7. Spread confusion.
8. Ditch your office.
9. Read odd stuff.
10. Avoid moderation!
“We have a ‘strategic plan.’ It’s called doing things.” ~ Herb Kelleher
- It’s not about talking to do something
- It’s not about thinking to do something
- It’s not about planning on doing something
- It’s not about creating hoops to jump through
- It’s not about creating forms
- It’s not about distributing memos
- It’s not about meetings
- It’s not about adding more resources
- It’s not about inner-office politics
- It’s not about bureaucracy
- It’s not about policies
- It’s not about the leadership
- It’s not about nostalgia
- It’s not about could’ve, should’ve, would’ve
- It’s not about playing business
It’s about getting things done!
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.
Organizations like Apple and Starbucks understand their Why, Microsoft and Dunkin Donuts does not.
Variations of Why Questions:
- Why should anyone care about what you do?
- Why are you doing what you’re doing?
- Why should you, the leader, care about your idea?
- Why do you think your idea (product, service, belief, etc.) is needed in this world?
- Why should your customers spend their money on your idea?
- Why should your employees care and support your idea?
If the above questions cannot be answered, your business is simply just operating without a true purpose – even if monetary success is achieved.