Have you ever solved a gnarly problem after sleeping on it? I know I have. In fact, I’ve been known to sit down before bedtime and review a particularly challenging problem, just to tee it up for my mind to “work” on overnight.
Although I’ve had an intuitive sense that my subconscious mind was working on the problem, I never understood exactly how it worked. And beyond my pre-bedtime problem review, I never knew how to harness my subconscious mind to be more creative and innovative -- until now.
I’ve been inhaling “Borrowing Brilliance” ever since I received my review copy of this book in the mail a few days ago. I’m on lots of publishers’ lists and get sent far more books than I could ever read – most end up being donated to my local small-town library.
But this one I happened to crack open at a page where the author was talking about how $50 Million slipped through his hands and he ended up in bankruptcy with a drinking problem, before climbing out again. I read one page and haven’t put it down since. ‘He’s the real deal,’ I thought.
The author, David Kord Murray, is the former head of innovation for Intuit. He’s also a co-founder of TaxNet, which was sold to H&R Block. And now he’s the author of Borrowing Brilliance, a new book about how to develop creative ideas and drive innovation in business.
He describes the book as a thinly-disguised memoir – and on one level it is. The memoirs of his successes and spectacular failures in business give the book credibility. He doesn’t set himself up as so perfect a businessman that your immediate reaction is to feel inadequate. With all of his flaws, as well as his successes, you realize that if HE can be innovative and creative, so can YOU. The memoirs keep the book from being dry.
And that brings me to the meat of this book. The author’s thesis is that creative innovators build upon the ideas of those before them. They borrow ideas. He doesn’t mean “borrow” in the sense of stealing someone else’s intellectual property. He means more in the sense of drawing an analogy from a similar idea and building on it for a creative breakthrough of your own.
The book is about the process for coming up with business innovation. The author says there are 6 steps to the process of developing creative ideas and innovating. While he lists the 6 steps – be forewarned. It’s not as if you could just sit down and in a half day do the 6 steps and push out a multi-million dollar idea at the end. You learn to master the steps over time – perhaps weeks or months – sometimes years. And you have to work hard on the process, training your brain to allow creative ideas to burst through.
Step 4 is the part where “sleeping on it” comes into play. The author says that an important part of developing creative ideas is to “incubate” the beginning crumbs of your ideas. You have to allow your subconscious mind to work on them, and to do that, you have to quell your conscious thought on the problem. As he says, “you can’t listen if you’re talking.”
So instead of sitting down at a desk and saying ‘I’m going to solve this problem’ you stop trying to make a conscious effort to solve it. You sleep on it. You go for a walk. You pause your conscious thinking about the problem. That in turn allows your subconscious to go to work.
This may sound simplistic but it’s only because I’ve summarized it in a few sentences. Trust me, there’s a lot more to it in the book that will help you develop creative breakthroughs in business. The payoff can be huge, as Murray discovered himself. He came up with brilliant marketing ideas for companies such as Intuit. He also developed multiple entrepreneurial ideas.
If you’re serious about trying to become more innovative and harnessing those glimmers of creativity, read Borrowing Brilliance.