Great ideas don’t just happen. Innovation springs from creative thinking—a method of the human mind that we can study and learn.
In The Art of Ideas, our guest brings together business concepts with stories of creativity in art, politics, and history to provide a visual and accessible guide to the art and science of new and useful ideas.
He details how to spark your own ideas and what to do while waiting for inspiration to strike. He shows that regardless of the field, innovations happen in the same way: examples from history, presence of mind, creative combination, and resolution to action.
The Art of Ideas features case studies and exercises that explain how to break down problems, search for precedents, and creatively combine past models to form new ideas. It showcases how Picasso developed his painting style, how Gandhi became the man we know today, and how Netflix came to disrupt the movie-rental business.
William Duggan – Final
[00:00:00] Steve Jobs: [00:00:00] Stay hungry, stay foolish.
[00:00:13] Aidan McCullen: [00:00:13] right. Ideas. Don’t just happen. Innovation Springs from creative thinking a method of the human mind that we can study and learn. And the art of ideas. Our guest brings together business concepts with stories of creativity and art politics and history to provide a visual and accessible guide to the art and science of new and useful ideas details how to spark your own ideas on what to do while waiting for inspiration to strike.
[00:00:41] He shows that regardless of the field innovations happen in the same way, examples from history, presence of mind, creative combination. And resolution to action. The art of ideas features case studies and exercises that explain how to break down problems, search for precedents and [00:01:00] creatively combine past models to form new ideas.
[00:01:03] It showcases how Picasso developed his painting style. How Gandy became the man we know today and how Netflix came to disrupt the movie rental business. We welcome author of the art of ideas. Creative thinking for work on life, William. Dogon welcome to the show.
[00:01:20] William Duggan: [00:01:20] Thank you very much.
[00:01:21] Aidan McCullen: [00:01:21] Fantastic to have you on the show, William, and just a reminder to our audience that this show is brought to you by Microsoft, for startups and sign up to the innovation show.
[00:01:29] Dyo to be in with a chance to win prizes every week, including a copy of today’s great book, the art of ID. So let’s jump in William. The book is beautifully illustrated and you begin by placing two of Picasso’s self portraits side by side. One is the style that did not make him famous in 1901. The second is the sale that did make him famous in 1907.
[00:01:53] This is not a story of look, it is the story of the art of creativity,
[00:01:57] William Duggan: [00:01:57] because it’s a very good example. Again, you know, [00:02:00] I’m just recording. I did not invent the Picasso example. It’s there in the world because people think that, Oh, Picasa, must’ve had the idea for a style all along. There’s something special about Picasso.
[00:02:13] There is something special about Picasa. He was a very good artist. He was very good artist beyond, but he was a very good artist, like all the other very good artists. The reason Picasso became the Casa we know is because at some point he had an idea and in a sense, the most important thing, the power of new ideas that you need a new idea.
[00:02:36] If because, so it didn’t get a new idea. He’d just be another ordinary. Painter that you, maybe art historians would know, but you wouldn’t know it was because he got it by piecing together the new art of Matisse and then African in sculpture, which was just coming to Paris because it was a time of French Columbia wasn’t.
[00:02:58] So if you look at the [00:03:00] final painting, his great breakthrough, that game was L D Avenue. It’s still one of the most. Famous paintings, modern art. And then you put the side at the previous Matisse painting and the African sculpture. It’s obvious to Picasso combined these two things to make. Now it’s especially interesting in art because in a sense, art historians almost recognizes.
[00:03:26] They call it influence Matisse influence Picasso. That’s completely backwards. Matisse was not the one who did anything to Picasso, Picasso borrowed from Matisse. Right. In other words, just an action on the part of the borrower. It’s not somehow this magic influence Picasso had an idea and it was a conscious idea.
[00:03:50] I’m going to put together Mathias in African sculpture and we can, you know, because Picasso’s life is so well documented. We know exactly the evening that that [00:04:00] happened. Right. Have a dinner with them Matisse. It was with Matisse and Matisse. When he met him that evening was carrying an African sculpture and Picasso carried it to dinner.
[00:04:11] And that very night Picasso started this painting where you see the two precedence is what we might call them. The two examples that he put together, of course, that’s mostly lost to history unless you look for it. Because people in a sense assume all Picasso must must’ve been a genius from birth.
[00:04:29] Aidan McCullen: [00:04:29] I loved some of the concepts here that you talk about later on in the book.
[00:04:33] One of them being networking for ideas. And that Picasso was deliberate about asking Matisa for dinner. He went and met him, brought him out for dinner. I’m just by chance Matisse had this Staci with them. And you talk about beautifully in the book about how he’d look between Matisse and the statue of forth and back, and then kind of rushed home in a moment of inspiration.
[00:04:57] William Duggan: [00:04:57] Yeah. So we’re lucky because, because of several documents [00:05:00] that we know that, I mean, because I’ve had a roommate who, you know, wrote this in his book, Most of this is mostly lost to other people. I mean, we don’t know them in that detail, but that’s what happens. And if you understand the answer, the mind, there’s no other way for it to happen.
[00:05:15] Aidan McCullen: [00:05:15] Yeah. And I love how you decode this for a spill because you talk about it in the book about four steps that you outlined for us, because oftentimes we think this type of creation is for the geniuses of the world, but you liberate us and empower us to follow in their steps. I’d love for you to talk us through the four steps and then perhaps how another business.
[00:05:40] A little bit more profitable than the Picasso estate, which is Google and how they brought it all together.
[00:05:46] William Duggan: [00:05:46] The four steps actually come from classical military strategy. It turns out that in a sense, the study of how you get creative ideas really began like most philosophy, [00:06:00] beginning of a very serious discipline in the early 19th century.
[00:06:04] And in a sense of the military academies were the first ones to take it seriously. And they were really formed most military academies in response to Napoleon success. They started of his enemies, started establishing academies, trying to figure out how he won. He was the most successful general in recorded history in the Western world and also how they could defeat him.
[00:06:29] Well, Carl Von Clausewitz wrote a very famous book based on this, on war. And he gives his for analysis, how Napoleon God has good ideas and it’s amazing how much it can be forms to what we now know of the neuroscience of creation. So the four steps, one hospice calls this examples from history. These are the precedents that you’re going to eventually bring together meaning, Oh, that’s how they did that.
[00:06:57] That’s how they did that. That’s how they did that. [00:07:00] That’s how they did that. Having an example of history means somebody did something before for this moment. Yesterday’s history a week ago is history a hundred years ago is history. It enters your mind. You store it on the shelves of your mind. Your memory.
[00:07:16] Step two is presence of mind. Presence of mind means you then toss out all your ideas. You have a clear mind as much as possible. Now, this is very different from the typical advice of imagination, which is think different. First of all, I don’t know how to think different. I don’t think anybody does, but this is in a sense don’t think at all, that the most creative thing you can do is gaze out the window.
[00:07:44] Take a walk, stare at a blank wall. Now, of course you need to have the examples in your mind, and it’s hard to know which ones are useful. Yes, but samples in your mind, then you clear your mind. And then the step three is your brain [00:08:00] starts right. Making these associations and connections, and then you feel it either in a larger which way are a series of small ways.
[00:08:08] It’s Oh, I see. I should do this, this and this at the moment. It’s a very clear idea, right? It’s not just a feeling it’s Oh, I see. So Picasso. Said, Oh, I’m going to take those shapes of Matisa and I’m going to distort them in the way this African sculpture. It’s very clear in your mind. You often forget that later.
[00:08:27] So this third step is hospice calls. It, it could die, which in French is really a glance. It means a strike of the eye where it strikes you, it connects in your mind. So that’s the recombination. And then the last step is called resolution. Meaning. It’s not just an interesting idea. It’s somehow conforms to your desire for what you want to do in the world, right?
[00:08:51] So you have these strong connections that form in your mind about things you actually want to do and that, and that are within your, [00:09:00] so that’s the last step that’s called resolution. Meaning you take off, you start doing it. It pushes you into action. Now I say nothing about the action itself, right?
[00:09:11] That’s a totally, it’s another step. But I’m just talking about the idea forming in your mind.
[00:09:17] Aidan McCullen: [00:09:17] When I was preparing for this, I was reading your work. And I thought of an article I wrote a couple of years ago and it was, I thought it was being very original by the way, on her Rodas. I called it a marination of the mind, and I was talking about collecting dots in order to connect the dots.
[00:09:33] And then I came across your book, which was written, you know, a couple of years ago. And I was like, well, There you go, there’s this point, nothing in the world is actually original. You pick up little bits from everywhere, and then I stumbled across this amazing quote by Mark Twain. And he said there is no such thing as a new idea.
[00:09:51] It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and [00:10:00] curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely, but they are the same old pieces of colored glass. That have been in use through all the ages.
[00:10:10] I thought that really summarize what you were getting out here. And I mentioned there, and you don’t cover this in the book where you do, and in some of your talks, you talk about how Google came from this combination of ideas of existing ideas.
[00:10:23] William Duggan: [00:10:23] So then a couple of things, one, thank you for that Twain quote.
[00:10:26] I am now going to borrow it outside of
[00:10:30] Aidan McCullen: [00:10:30] the team and I’ll send it
[00:10:31] William Duggan: [00:10:31] to you. Well, it’s a long story. So are you ready for a long story?
[00:10:35] Aidan McCullen: [00:10:35] A lovely.
[00:10:36] William Duggan: [00:10:36] Okay. So the Google guys, they were PhD students at Stanford university in computer science. Their supervisor was Rajeev Motwani, who founded something called Midas, which was mining data at Stanford MIDAS.
[00:10:53] And so one of the projects was they’re just trying to apply data mining to online retail. [00:11:00] So data mining it’s commercial use was mostly at the time. Most famously for retail, you know, huge amounts of data on who bought what, when, where for how much and data mining means you run complex algorithms looking for patterns.
[00:11:14] Now data mining is really, really old. It predates computers by, you know, at least a century, but of course, computers make looking for these patterns much more easy. And of course, as computers got better, the formulas got more and more powerful and faster. So they’re doing this, you know, they’re on Alta Vista actually searching for companies to work on out to Vista was the best search engine.
[00:11:40] At the time. It was the first one actually to do an automatic it’s called a WebCrawler and automatic index of every single page on the internet and download that index into a directory. Now the most popular search engine at the time was Yahoo and they were doing that kind of. [00:12:00] Tagging by hand, they are a whole army of people doing this tagging by hand out the Vista did it automatically much better as a search end.
[00:12:09] So the search and they noticed something on an alpha Vista search screen, it’s called reverse links, meaning you can enter your web address and it will give you all the other sites that link to your site. What that means is that site has written you, your URL on their site. As we know now, that’s what a link is.
[00:12:30] They actually write your address, click on it. They come to your page. Well, this reminded them of something. One of their other projects they were working on was a library project. And this reminded them of footnotes because really that’s what a footnote is. And to somebody’s book, there’s a link or a citation, which is really a link to someone else’s work.
[00:12:51] And they know from the library. Project that authors get away according to how many times their name appears and other people, just a quick [00:13:00] note. So let’s take Sigmund Freud many times as he appeared in other people’s homes in a year. I mean, millions, he’s the founder of psychology. So Gaietry so he, his rank is very high.
[00:13:15] Someone else doesn’t get cited very much by other people. Their rank is low. So the Google guys and they say, well, look, isn’t that the same thing? Why don’t we just, once we get results, we’re going to rank them of, you know, who has linked to you. We’re going to rank these according to who gets linked the most.
[00:13:37] So if a huge number of other sites link to your site, your rank is high. If nobody’s linking to your site, your rank is low. It’s the same thing and we display the results by rank. So the most useful, or the most used sites are at the top, whereas Yahoo and all the other search engines at the time, including AltaVista, [00:14:00] the results were just a jumble for the first time you get ranked results automatically.
[00:14:05] Thanks out the Vista. So they wrote out to Vista, they copied out the Vista onto the Stanford computers. They took a data mining algorithm and they did this reverse link ranking that they got from academic citations and they called it Patriot. Guess what they thought they had. They thought they had a research tool and they list all the research uses you could use for their well Stanford university.
[00:14:31] Whereas you’re using so much computer space and time. You must let everybody use this on campus. So everybody did. Everybody came back to the Google guys and said, you guys realize you have just invented the greatest search engine in the history of the world, not just a research tool. And they said, Oh, I guess you’re right.
[00:14:50] That is what we did now started a search company called it Google raise lots of investment capital [00:15:00] and they spent it and they were ready to give up why what’s missing. Money. Yeah. At the least we were all using Google before they made a penny. Well, at the time, the most popular search engines or websites were like Yahoo.
[00:15:22] Yahoo was definitely the most popular and they were portals. Now portal means you have everything on the same page. Even today. If you look at the Yahoo page, you have your email, your news, your shopping, your weather. Your news and your search, everything on the same page, because they want you to stay on that page as long as possible.
[00:15:41] So they can sell banner ads and pop up ads. And those make you stay on the page even longer. But look at Google what’s on the Google page, at least the original Google page, nothing just search. And then, you know, in those days, even today, really you enter your search term and maybe a second, less than a second, you get your [00:16:00] results.
[00:16:00] You click on the one you want. You’re off the page. Google gets you off the page as fast as possible. A portal keeps you on the page as long as possible. Google is the opposite of a portal. Well, but you know, okay, now the Google guys, it’s a great search engine, but Yahoo makes their money from made their money from high banner ads and popup ads because people are lingering on the page.
[00:16:25] And the Google investors said, well, it’s very simple way to get revenue. You’re so popular. Just sell banner ads and popup. Well, the Google guys said, well, we can’t do that. If we do that, Google will be slow. Just like the portals. So the Google guys really tried to give up. They offered to sell this back to AltaVista for $1 million.
[00:16:49] Alta Vista said no, because they didn’t have either, they had no ads or anything like that. So the Google guys just kept going. They didn’t know what else to do. And then they noticed [00:17:00] on the internet, a site called overture. Now overture was a search engine. Did not have as many users as Google, but they were selling advertisement and they were not displaying those advertisements as banner ads or pop up ads.
[00:17:15] They were displaying them as search results in a nice little list on the right hand side. Well, that’s just as fast as in the other search results. So the Google guys wrote that into Google and still today. That’s how Google makes its money. That is 80% of Google’s revenue. Another 15% comes from YouTube, which they did not invent.
[00:17:39] They bought that. And another five comes from all kinds of things. So we recognize now, once we know how to look at these things, that they combined examples from history, meaning they did not invent data, mining algorithms, they did not invent out this data. They did not invent reverse link ranking [00:18:00] from authors and they did not invent overtures ANSYS.
[00:18:03] It was a new combination of previous elements and they had the presence of mine. They’ve every time, these things combined in their mind, first of all, they let it, they had open minds that let these things combined. And then they followed through, even if it changed where they thought they were going. So they changed their goal.
[00:18:23] But of course they changed the goal. They found a better idea for Friday. Change your goal when you see a better way to go. No, I’m glad, I’m glad you asked about Google because Google is famous for creative workplace, you know? People are imitating this, have poke it out. Walls and toys and funny chairs and slides.
[00:18:43] Nobody ever thinks she is that how Google guys got their idea is that the source of Google’s creativity, not even close.
[00:18:55] Aidan McCullen: [00:18:55] What I love about your work and about how you break it down for us is that [00:19:00] you go, this is not just the domain of people we think are beyond arm’s reach. This is something we all can do. And before we go into the process that you bring us through, and it makes absolute sense, you mentioned Netflix, which we won’t go into today.
[00:19:15] I let people read the book to find that one. But you talk about Mahatma Gandhi and originally Mohandas Gandhi and how he combined different elements, different expertise, different components that he got her throughout history. Just like the art of war, essentially, like you mentioned earlier, and he created an unusual combination, novel innovation that changed history.
[00:19:39] William Duggan: [00:19:39] The story really starts in England and 1906 when. Emmeline pancreas, um, becomes the individual most responsible, where she starts the strategy that ends up making her the individual most responsible for [00:20:00] getting English women to vote. Now, up until this time, English women were trying to get the vote by very polite delegations.
[00:20:07] They would get noble women or wealthy women, or both. There’s a lot of overlap between those two at the time. To go politely to parliament and ask for the vote, guess how that was working. Well, she notices in 1906 that the British labor movement, ALEKS 29 members to parliament enough to form their own political party, the labor party, which very soon wins the entire election.
[00:20:32] And they did this through strikes, demonstrations, picketing, basically filling the jails, nonviolence, civil disobedience. So she says, Oh, well, that’s a great idea. We too, we women, we need to get arrested. So she starts women getting arrested right there. They block streets, they block the answers to parliament.
[00:20:54] They go to the house of commons, you know, to get arrested again and again, and again, they have [00:21:00] parades and, you know, very, this works very quickly. Within two years, three quarters of members of parliament, declare in favor of women’s health. Now it takes a long time to actually get the house of Lords. No surprise blocks it, but basically, you know, the tide has turned well.
[00:21:17] Gandhi at the time was living in South Africa. He’s 37 years old. He failed as a lawyer in India, failed as a lawyer in South Africa on the very day, he’s leaving South Africa to go home in failure. He gets the idea. That the Indian community might give him a little money for him to be their secretary. As a matter of fact, they throw them a party cause everybody loves him.
[00:21:42] He’s a sweet guy. They threw him a goodbye party and he looks around and he says, you know, maybe I can be your secretary. And I will organize polite delegations of Indians to go to the colonial authorities in South Africa and asked for our rights again, very classic strategy. [00:22:00] So they do that. They send him to London.
[00:22:03] To lobby the colonial authorities directly. That’s where he sees Emeline. Pancras sees this as, Oh, what a great idea comes back to South Africa. And he has a weekly newsletter. He writes for the Indian community. And as first article back is Indian men must become like English women where human needs is.
[00:22:25] We need to get arrested, but he’s a smart guy, you know, he knows that’s not the only thing he needs. Because his Indians are not like the English, women, English, women, they’re all women who almost all middle class, you know, some are working class, but they’re all literate. They’re almost all the same religion.
[00:22:42] They speak the same language. Whereas in India and South Africa is Indians are like India, lots of different languages, lots of different religions with Hindu there’s different paths. There’s male, female, rich, poor literate, illiterate. He knows from Indian experience. Just throwing these [00:23:00] people in the room together creates chaos.
[00:23:03] So first he wants to demonstrate before he throws them to get arrested together. He says, we need to show we can work together. So he starts a farm where everybody first works together to work out how to get along. He calls it Tolstoy farm because he stole the idea from Leo Cole story, the great Russian novelist, who himself was a.
[00:23:28] Noble in Russia. And towards the end of his life, Tolstoy turned his estate into a land of equality where Lord surf everybody’s equal male, female, religion everybody’s equal and told story writes about this. And Gandhi of course, reads it and says, this is really great. I’m going to start my own toast by farm.
[00:23:50] Well, if you look at pictures of Tolstoy and Gandhi, Right. Both doing this now. Gandhi, who used to dress in his very nice lawyer suit. Now he [00:24:00] starts dressing like Tolstoy. Well, except the Indian version, tell a story, started dressing in, um, uh, Russian peasant costume. Now he starts dressing in Indian peasant.
[00:24:14] There’s a picture of famous picture of Tulsa with a sack over his back. Same picture of Gandhi sack over his back. 12 stores got a walking stick. Gandhi’s got to walk upstairs. And he asked me to see practices. Getting people arrested in South Africa, goes to India to do it on a large scale there. He then steals from captain Charles boycott.
[00:24:37] Captain Charles boycott was a rent collector in Ireland in the late 19th century. The peasants thought the rents were too high, so they stopped hurting his sheep. Serving him at the pub, delivering his mouth, cleaning his cottage. They boycotted captain boycott. That’s where the word comes from. So Gandhi says great idea.
[00:24:58] He gets all of India, boy [00:25:00] counting English goods, and some economists will tell you, this is why India got its independence. Little later on. Gandhi says, you know, there’s one more person I need to steal from. If you see a picture of a Hindu, Holy man. And then you see Gandhi in sort of his later years. Keys now looks he dresses and really acts exactly like a Hindu, Holy man Gandhi said, Oh, you know, I have to become a Hindu.
[00:25:27] Holy man. You know, his greatest enemies were the Hindu nationalist. So he says, Oh, I gotta become a Hindu, Holy man, the counter there. So Gandhi, that’s how the Bondi 37 years old failed lawyer in his nice suit becomes the Gandhi. We all recognize. The most famous person on earth leader of the largest nonviolent social movement in history.
[00:25:48] And in our terms, one of the greatest thieves of history, which is a great compliment. Once you understand how ideas really happen.
[00:25:57] Aidan McCullen: [00:25:57] We have given context now. So they’re [00:26:00] the exemplars. That’s the bar is set really high, but you break it down for us. Literally break it down for us to make it easy. The four steps.
[00:26:09] So let’s jump into part two of the book and how you bring us through it. You talk about the importance of appraisal and quite naturally you say it all starts with a problem that we need to solve, but if it’s a creative problem, one that’s never been solved before you share a formal methods to find a new idea.
[00:26:26] The formula for a new idea is, or a plus WW plus CC. I’d love if you’d talk us through this at a high level. And then we dive down into each of them starting with that rapid appraisal.
[00:26:38] William Duggan: [00:26:38] Let me say that I have a coauthor of this book, Amy Murphy. She is really the master of this practical method. So the idea is that you start with a problem or something you’d like to achieve.
[00:26:53] Now, of course, um, the stories I tell. Very often in a sense, you don’t recognize what the problem [00:27:00] is until you see how to do it. For example, Gandhi didn’t know he was gonna, you be a nonviolent civil disobedience obedience to the leader until he saw how to do it, but in normal life, right. Especially in the corporate world, working for an organization of any kind, they will say, look, you know, we need a new idea about X, okay.
[00:27:22] The X goes up top. You then do what you’re calling or what we call appraisal, meaning you, but they try to break it down. What are the pieces of this book? Now, this is really an expert task, right? An expert will tell you, Oh, well, this problem is complicated. It’s this, this, this, this, and this, you know, you need to figure out this, this, this, this, and this.
[00:27:42] And these are obstacles, meaning, Oh, you know, it would be great if we could solve this, but the reason we can’t solve it is X, Y, and Z. Right. So then you’ve broken down the pieces of the puzzle, so to speak. Now this actually takes time and you can do it quickly, but again, it’s in draft. [00:28:00] Next, you search for each one of those.
[00:28:03] You’re saying, has anybody anywhere in the world ever solved this to some degree? Now this is totally agnostic of the field. Whereas the problem on top is in a particular field. Now it’s. No, uh, just as anybody’s figured out X, Y, Z, and you search on each other and ironically, the best tool of course, for searching these days is Google, which is really ironic because Google tells us employees, you know, to work in offices with polka dots, play with toys and sit on funny chairs.
[00:28:43] When at their fingertips, they have the greatest innovation tool ever invented called Google. Now of course, you know, Google results, don’t automatically give you precedents, Google Gandhi, and they’re not going to first show you Emmeline panickers [00:29:00] Tolstoy, captain boy, or the Hindu Ali man. Right? They’re going to give you lots of stuff.
[00:29:07] So there are tricks and again, Amy’s the master of this to change your search. So you add words like how success example award. And also, you know, you do ask people, you know, you use your network, so to speak, to say, you know, do you know anybody who’s ever solved any piece of this? Or do you know anybody who might
[00:29:27] Aidan McCullen: [00:29:27] or invite my for dinner?
[00:29:30] William Duggan: [00:29:30] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. You know, so that’s that takes, you know, that takes the most time is this search. And then the last step is where, you know, so then, so basically you’ve. Tried to give yourself the examples from history. You might, you need to get a good idea rather than relying on what was previously in your mind.
[00:29:53] If what was previously in your mind would solve the problem. You don’t need to do this. We call those expert problems. [00:30:00] Now this is a good time to mention brainstorming. If you get 10 people together to what you’re doing is you’re very quickly efficiently getting their personal experience and knowledge out on the table.
[00:30:13] Right. But imagine we’ve been doing that with Picasso before he saw those Mattise paint, she’s painting. Right. You wouldn’t have that element in his mind, so he could brainstorm forever and never come up with that idea. Key to this search step is to put more examples, especially relevant examples into your mind, so that the next step you can look at the whole thing and say, Oh, I see if you do this, this and this, I think that will solve a lot of the problem.
[00:30:42] We’re a somewhat different problem, and it’s always better to solve a different problem than not solve your original problem
[00:30:51] Aidan McCullen: [00:30:51] after rapid appraisal then, which is something we’re all capable of doing is what works. So this is where you talk about the distinction. And I think this is important [00:31:00] because a lot of our audience are CEOs or work as corporate innovators on they’re told to sit in a room on innovate and oftentimes the starting point is best.
[00:31:11] Practices, but breasts practices is just copying what came before and you talk about best precedents. And by looking at precedents, you look can look at analogous fields. So things that are vastly different and look for solutions there, and you give some great examples in the
[00:31:27] William Duggan: [00:31:27] book. Yeah. So, uh, just, just we, even within the Google story, it’s not obvious that you take academic citations.
[00:31:35] Which is very banal in a certain sense they’ve been around forever. And that becomes a key element in your modern computer program. So we’d like to call this in domain and out of domain. I mean, best practice is fine for in domain, right? How to domain means you look elsewhere. So famously Henry Ford got his idea to move his [00:32:00] assembly line, right?
[00:32:00] Where the worker stay still in the product moves. From the slaughterhouse Chicago slaughterhouse, where an animal comes in, somebody kills and hangs on it, pushes it down the rack, the animals moving, the people stay still. Right. We call that an out of domain analogy is an excellent word. Um, meaning, Oh, you know, I’m not gonna use beef in my car.
[00:32:26] I’m going to use the moving assembly line. What’s really funny in a way is that the slaughterhouse is a disassembly line. They’re taking apart the animal, whereas awarded an engineer and his engineers made it an assembly line where they’re putting together the animal or in this case. So is this analogist thinking, that’s exactly what you need to do when you look outside your domain, because those people, those people in the room, I’m sure they’re experts in their field.
[00:32:55] If it could be solved within the field, they would have already solved it or brainstorming. We’ll do it. [00:33:00] If you have the humility to say, you know, you look around the room and say, you know, I don’t think the people in this room know enough of the pieces of the answer. Now you search the key to this whole thing is search.
[00:33:13] You’re searching, searching, searching, and sale. You see a combination that works.
[00:33:18] Aidan McCullen: [00:33:18] We’d give an example here at this stage because the next stage then is CC, which is creative combinations. And this is once you’ve decomposed. The problem, you can also do the composed, the solutions and then reconfigure them in novel, novel ways and create new things.
[00:33:35] You give an example that you did yourselves yourself and Amy, where you have a doke. Some bananas and a pair of flip flops. I love if you took us through this.
[00:33:45] William Duggan: [00:33:45] Okay. Well, I mean, this is a little hard without the visual, but
[00:33:50] Aidan McCullen: [00:33:50] imagine it
[00:33:52] William Duggan: [00:33:52] to demonstrate the idea. Cause a lot of people say, Oh, you know, I, I am, this sounds complicated.
[00:33:58] I could never do that. It’s a [00:34:00] game that you can play very easily. We even give a little sheet in the book that can be your sheet that you use for the game. So the idea is basically you, um, it’s a sheet with 25 different common objects. You throw up toss a coin three times and you get three different objects and then you say, okay, push those three objects together to make something, put them together, to make something new and useful, which is the definition of innovation.
[00:34:26] Um, but we know the secret. You don’t just push the three together. So if I come up with, you know, an egg. A flaming torch and flip flops, plus a camel. You don’t just throw them together. If you do that and you get a broken egg, you get a burn camel. So we know you have to.
[00:34:43] Aidan McCullen: [00:34:43] That’s my idea. That’s my idea, man.
[00:34:46] William Duggan: [00:34:46] Yeah. Yeah. Sorry. Sorry to disappoint you. Um, you know, we have to break it down. In other words, you’re not going to steal the whole camel. You’re not going to take the whole County. You can take a piece of the County. So you have to break down the camel. You’re only going to take part of the camel in the way that [00:35:00] Henry Ford did not take the beef.
[00:35:02] He took the moving on. So the example I give is I randomly off the internet, pick three pictures, the duck bananas, plastic sandals. I just broke them down now, you know, so when I see a doc, I see a see meat, I see the body shape, the buoyant body shape and the wings. That’s what I see. When I see a doc, you might see something else.
[00:35:24] You might see me whenever you see you write it down. Bananas. There. Easy to open disposable skin and they come in bunches, the plastic sandals are sheep. The duck was webbed feet point by the shape wins. So you write those down and you can do this. It’s good to do it as a group, a larger number of people understand it.
[00:35:44] There’s a lot of fun. You know, you have those written down. Now the key is you forget the doc. You forget the bananas. You forget the class. You’re just combining some combination of web fee, body shape wings. Disposable [00:36:00] easy to open, come in bunches. It’s the list of elements that you’re going to combine and what I saw, and this is true.
[00:36:08] I’m not saying it’s a great idea, but I saw disposable inflatable travel pillows. And multi-packs mean you get a little package, you pull out one of these, you blow it up, you use it as a, as the pillow for your travel, and then you throw it away. I combined seven of those lists of things right now that travel pillow looks nothing like a dog bananas or plastic sandals, but now, you know, where that idea came from and it really opens people’s eyes.
[00:36:47] And they also say, Oh, I can do it. It’s amazing. The crazy things people come up with, remember, it’s a game. So you want them to, you know, they come up with all kinds of inventions and. Things, and it’s great. Right? That’s [00:37:00] the point, the point is you’re making new combinations out of previous elements. Once people do that, once they get the idea and they’re ready to go.
[00:37:07] Aidan McCullen: [00:37:07] Yeah. And I love, I love that bill, because you do turn on that piece of your mind to spot opportunities everywhere. And it reminded me of the origin of Velcro, you know, that stickiest of Velcro that was. A guy in the Jura mountains, in the 1940s who was out hunting in Switzerland. And he noticed how these little hooks got stuck in the stoke, on his pants, on his, in his dogs for all the time.
[00:37:31] And he went, Hmm, that’s interesting. You know, and I think that’s the thing we need to be receptive to that. And that’s what you talk about, the importance of psychological safety in your organization. For example, you are not under stress or you’re not under pressure because. The receptiveness only comes to you when you’re in a good state of mind and you don’t feel under pressure and stress
[00:37:54] William Duggan: [00:37:54] on that one.
[00:37:56] You know, honestly, I don’t have a lot of faith in [00:38:00] the average organization, relieving people’s stress. That’s why I present it. I always presented as a personal discipline where it’s, don’t expect someone else to reduce your pressure. Or your stress. There’s a way to do that, where you do strategic thinking, where you divide everything whenever you feel.
[00:38:27] Again, this is a longer piece where I break down stress into two parts. This part of the neuroscience of stress is pressure and the anxiety or fear, worry, you know, some negative emotion about the pressure pressure itself is not bad. You have pressure to make this recording as good as you can. Right.
[00:38:47] That’s good pressure, right? What’s bad is if you then have anxiety or worry or fear about it, because that negative emotion clouds your mind quite literally, right. And that prevents [00:39:00] you from both observing things and combining things in your mind. And this is really tragic because people can go through their entire day.
[00:39:09] With something negative on their minds, they sort of go from worry to worry, to fear, to anxiety grief their whole day is their mom does cloud in that way. And that’s the presence of mind. The most important thing really is to free yourself from those negative emotions. And there’s a discipline that I explained for how
[00:39:28] Aidan McCullen: [00:39:28] to do that.
[00:39:29] I think there’s social important point because it’s the way I do the show because there’s a lot of misery out there and there doesn’t have to be. And I hope, you know, bring in your knowledge and people like you to the world will help people out there. And I’m, I’m in the midst of writing my own book.
[00:39:44] And it’s funny, you mentioned this today. I was writing it only about this idea of the overload principle weight training that the resistance creates muscle
[00:39:53] William Duggan: [00:39:53] and that.
[00:39:54] Aidan McCullen: [00:39:54] In a world where so many of the stressors are removed, we need to introduce stress. And it’s the [00:40:00] whole concept behind this. There’s a Harvard psychologist, Davidson Sinclair is his name.
[00:40:04] And he was talking about how intermittent fasting is actually introducing stress to your system. And because there’s not many stressors on us from an evolutionary perspective, we have to introduce them. And the reason I share all that is that’s what we need to do in a, in a world where. We’re in a way there’s mental atrophy.
[00:40:25] I play we’re, we’re not we’re, we’re not stretching ourselves. And that’s why I love that exercise of the creative collaborations, et cetera.
[00:40:32] William Duggan: [00:40:32] Well, let me add one thing. Um, if there’s one thing in this portion of this talk that I want you and your listeners to remember is never again, use the word, stress, pressure, and anxiety.
[00:40:50] Pressure plus anxiety equals stress, but don’t confuse the two pressure is good. Anxiety is bad. [00:41:00] Stress just confuses the issue. There’s also mental pressure and physical pressure. Intermittent fasting is physical pressure, right? And that’s a biological thing. Mental pressure is created by us. Ourselves.
[00:41:17] Right. In other words, you felt pressure to make this interview good. Even if someone on Alice tries to pressure you, it’s up to you. Whether you accept that pressure are not in your own mind, and that can be good. You’re right. I mean, if pushes people to do things, a lot of people wouldn’t get up in the morning.
[00:41:33] If there wasn’t pressure to do their jobs and make a living and do what they want to do. So pressure’s good. Anxiety is not good. Right. I was thinking is key because people are confused about stress. They say is stress good? Is stress bad. The answer is eliminate stress from your vocabulary, from your thinking, there is pressure and there is anxiety.
[00:41:56] Aidan McCullen: [00:41:56] Yeah. And, and actually you’re right. I use the word [00:42:00] resistance. I don’t actually use the word stress because you’re right. It’s more of a, on words important as well. I think this is the other thing I got from your work is that idea of decomposing. Elements of a solution actually is the same thing as writing because you, you tend to notice analogies.
[00:42:17] I wrote a lot in analogies and I’m even looking at your work. I’m going to go on. This is really helpful. For example, I’ll give you an example. That’s a really good one that links together to the Google. One. When Amazon created the fire phone, it could be considered like $170 million failure, but by not pursuing that.
[00:42:38] They had developed a voice protocol and which is Alexa, and they didn’t have anywhere to put it. And they were talking and there was these echo smart speakers. And one of the engineers like, Oh, what, let’s put it in the echo. And then the echo became Alexa. And then they put all their energies behind that.
[00:42:55] And I thought about how, if you break down what is [00:43:00] considered a failure, say it was an attempt to develop a new skill. For example, you create capability and that capability. Can be broken down and pointed at something else and create something new. And I think that’s a really important point.
[00:43:14] William Duggan: [00:43:14] Yeah. That’s wonderful.
[00:43:16] People will say, I mean, they’ve even said this most amazing thing, you know, uh, fail early and often you learn the most from failure. I mean, that’s outrageous. I mean, if I learned the most from failure, therefore I should try to fail as much as possible. I mean, that’s complete nonsense. The way you learn from failure is exactly what you just said.
[00:43:36] Right? Is that failure might have within it, something that actually worked. Right. So, you know, you opened a restaurant, it failed, right. But you learn something about, you know, I don’t know, delivery where you learn something about X or Y. Those are positive things you learn within the overall failure.
[00:44:00] [00:44:00] Right. So you just gave a wonderful example, right? Oh yeah. Okay. The phone failed, but there was something within it that worked now. How do I combine that with something else you’re looking for? What works but works? What works, what works? Those are the pieces of glass of the kaleidoscope that Mark Twain is talking about.
[00:44:18] You want pieces that work, not pieces that didn’t work
[00:44:21] Aidan McCullen: [00:44:21] and equally to your point again, you eliminate things. So. When you think about a relationship that didn’t work out well, what does that teach you? It teaches you, I don’t like that type of person. And it’s almost like a radar to point you in the right direction.
[00:44:36] And I think, like you say, the goal is never to fail. The goal is to learn. And oftentimes that is misconstrued as a failure. And I think that’s where a lot of people get paralyzed by fear because they’re judged on what they think is failure. And I wanted to use this as a way to tee up your fantastic last part of the book, because all this is not just about the [00:45:00] organization or new business models or new ideas, it’s about the individual and ultimately making their life better.
[00:45:05] William Duggan: [00:45:05] One of the keys to this is the recognition. Of circumstance as a big part of what you can and cannot do. So if you deal with examples, if you’re looking for examples from history that fit in some combination, the problem you want to solve, they might not exist. People might not have solved enough of the puzzle for you actually to solve that puzzle.
[00:45:32] So some things just can’t be done yet. The world is not set up, excuse me for that to work. And you have to recognize that in your own life, you can’t just simply say, Oh, you know, I want to become, you know, the world’s best marathon runner and you’re, you know, 36 years old and you have a bad knee. Right.
[00:45:53] You have to recognize the power of circumstance. Right. So, [00:46:00] um, the idea here is. You lay out well, what are the many things that I want most that I’m most passionate about or could be passionate about? You know, for example, you know, maybe Gandhi would have said, you know, I would like to contribute to Indian independence if I could find a way, you know, but at the age of 30, he didn’t set that as a goal because he had absolutely no idea how to do it.
[00:46:28] Right. But that could be on his list of possible. Passions right. This, these are things I might be interested in. So you write those down on the left hand column on the right hand column, you say, well, you know, for each one of these, what might an actual expression of this be? So let me give you a very, uh, one of my favorite examples when I did this in class, the students said, you know, one of her top passions still in her life is figure skating.
[00:47:00] [00:47:00] She was a great figure skater. Right as a kid and you know, you get older and you don’t do it anymore, but she still loves it. Right. So, okay. So that’s a possible passion, right? Write it down on the right hand side, it says, okay, what would be a really ambitious that would express that passion? And she thought about that, then she said, Oh, well that’s easy actually, international figure skating, judge.
[00:47:25] Very well paid your big shot in the fields. You’re in the F you know, you’re in the world. She loves the world figure skating, and she’d love to do that. Okay. She hasn’t set that as a goal. It’s a possible goal. Can she see the actions and obstacles to get from one to the other? Not in detail, but generally.
[00:47:46] And she says, yeah, actually I think I know what you do. Um, I realized in thinking back to how it works, What you do is you start volunteering at local events. You develop a reputation as a good judge. They [00:48:00] start, you know, asking you to come to the regional events to judge and they pay your way and they give you a stipend and maybe an honorarium, and then, you know, bigger events.
[00:48:10] And then eventually over the years, you’ll be in a position for one of those few jobs as permanent international figures, getting judged. She hadn’t realized this. She wouldn’t realize now the age of 29, she could start in her spare time to lay the grounds to do this. Doesn’t mean she’s going to do it doesn’t mean she’s going to get there, but it recognizes the balance between what you want.
[00:48:39] Your other desires, right? She was going to become a, you know, she’s going to go into consulting and, you know, make a good living. In the meantime, that was another one of her passions or possible passions, a way to combine the various things that you might are interested in wanting to do with circumstance.
[00:48:57] And we always leave a middle column, you know, as [00:49:00] we’re filling in the obstacles and in actions, a middle column of down stepping stones, meaning. No the world not you is going to determine which one of your goals you’re going to achieve. So that helps keep your mind open to opportunities to follow any one of these, rather than being now minded and just following the one you want most, because honestly, in this life, you probably can’t get what you want, but you can get some really good things.
[00:49:33] And there’s nothing like success to make you want something even more. Working backwards. Here’s another example. Again, another female student, she starts on the right hand side. She says, I want to be the minister of finance in my country. She’s from Latin America. Great. Put that down as a possible goal.
[00:49:49] You go back to the left hand and you say, okay, what passions are the would that express? And she says, okay, well I want to serve my country. And I am [00:50:00] interested in finance and economics. Great. Put those down now let’s go back to the right hand column again. If the world conspires that you’re not going to be minister of finance at your country, is there anything else that would express those passions and she thinks about it?
[00:50:16] She says, well, actually, now that you mentioned it, we have a very, very big active, uh, business council. Um, you know, being ahead of that business council, that’d be pretty good too. Oh, okay. Well now she has set up and now she thinks through, you know, there are various different paths. Possible paths to get to each or both.
[00:50:36] And now she set up to take those opportunities. You know, so vamps example, a very simple thing is, you know, does she have to join a political party to be minister of finance? Probably she doesn’t have to join a political party to be head of the business council, right? It’s balancing your many passions as you move forward in life, recognizing that the world not you is going to play a big role in which of them comes [00:51:00] true.
[00:51:00] Aidan McCullen: [00:51:00] I love the idea of breaking them down or decomposing the steps. What can I do? What can continue wire for me to get there is, is absolutely key. And there’s a really important part as well, which is the idea of you don’t wait until the last moment until you’ve exhausted what you’re doing right now. You need to be building those capabilities well, before they’re needed.
[00:51:23] And you know, there’s a great Spartan mantra. The Spartan soldiers used to say, the more you sweat in times of peace, the less you bleed in time. And I think it’s so important for skill capability. You build it before you need it. You don’t Waitley have graduated and then go, okay. Now I need to join a political party.
[00:51:42] William Duggan: [00:51:42] It’s those
[00:51:43] Aidan McCullen: [00:51:43] extracurricular activities you do are so important. And that’s why I absolutely love this book. Absolutely highly recommend it. And where can people find out more about you and your work?
[00:51:54] William Duggan: [00:51:54] I’m a professor at Columbia business school. So you can just go to combi university. Faculty [00:52:00] directory and I’m right there.
[00:52:01] Aidan McCullen: [00:52:01] I just like to thank our sponsor, which is Microsoft for startups on don’t forget, sign up to innovation show.io, where you can be in with a chance to win a copy of this fabulous book. I’d like to thank the author of that book, the art of ideas, creative thinking for work on for life. William Duggan. Thank you for joining us.
[00:52:19] William Duggan: [00:52:19] Thank you very much.