Spoiler alert: The easiest route to innovation is not pure originality.

Originality is overrated. Whether in thought, creation or execution, the pursuit of sheer originality is often a waste of time, effort and resources. While it’s desirable to be original, you don’t need to be original to get ahead.

Creativity and innovation are two essential skills of the future according to the World Economic Forum. I can’t agree more. But what many fail to see is that you don’t have to be original to be creative or innovative.

You are probably confused at this point. If you are indeed confounded, it’s understandable. By the time you finish reading this piece, I can guarantee that your confusion would have dissipated.

The need to innovate

Whatever you do or wherever you work, you need to be creative to stay relevant. You must constantly innovate to stay ahead in your business or career. Creativity and innovation keep you ahead of the chasing pack.

If an organisation fails to innovate, it won’t grow and it’ll later shut down as its innovative counterparts take its place. If you’re not creative as an employee, you get relegated to the most menial tasks and lowest wages. Sad but true.

The world belongs to creative individuals and innovative companies. Just take a moment to consider the most successful persons and firms. One thing they all share is the ability to continually innovate and evolve with changing times.

Innovate or incinerate. Be creative or be cremated.

Innovate or incinerate. Be creative or be cremated. Click To Tweet

The problem with innovation

Having established the importance of innovation, let’s talk about how to achieve it and what you and I might be doing wrong. Oftentimes, you and I fail to innovate because we go about it the wrong way. I’ll get to the how.

This brings us back to my opening paragraph. For some reason, some of us think the only way to be creative is to be original. This is not the case and loads of examples around us are testament to that.

An idea does not have to be original to be creative. And most innovative ideas aren't entirely new. Click To Tweet

An idea does not have to be original to be creative. And most innovative ideas are not entirely new.

That sounds counterintuitive, isn’t it? Stay with me and I’ll prove it to you.

Originality is a route to creativity but it’s not the only way. If we’re even to examine all the creativity and innovation around us, originality is one of the least used approaches. What then is the most used innovation mechanism?

Try this proven creativity approach

The dictionary defines innovate as bring something new to an environment. This seems clear enough. What most of us fail to see in this definition, however, is that what is new in an environment does not have to be entirely new.

Most ideas described as innovative are borrowed ideas—adapted existing concepts. They were borrowed from other environments. Put simply, they’re old ideas in a new environment or, if you will, new ideas in an existing environment.

Now, Napoleon Hill may have termed it synthetic imagination in a more comprehensive concept. Other experts prefer to call it synthetic creativity. Whatever the name, it might just be the easiest path to innovation.

Essentially, this approach involves combining one or more existing products, ideas or inventions in a unique way, termed a synthesis, to form a novel invention.

Think iPod: Apple simply replaced the Walkman cassettes with a hard drive. Voila, an innovative music player!

Now what,

We’re quick to define creativity as thinking outside of the box. Let’s take that a step further to better understand and apply it. To quote NISH, thinking outside the box may more accurately be understood as drawing from different boxes.

My friend, you don’t have to be fully original to be innovative. Synthetic imagination is a proven shortcut. To apply this approach, think of ideas you can borrow from other environments (industries, genres, fields, processes, etc.).

You don’t have to be fully original to be innovative. Synthetic imagination is a proven shortcut. Think of ideas you can borrow from other environments (industries, genres, fields, processes, etc.). Click To Tweet

Netflix is tagged an innovative company. Yet, Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph only brought the gym subscription model into the movie rental industry. Boom! A billion-dollar company is born.

Of course, that sounds simplistic but it’s the fundamental idea of Netflix. Surely, there are ways you can apply synthetic creativity in your job, work and business. Start looking for those ideas today.

You can do this. It’s in you.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section or let’s talk here. You can also join my inner circle to receive insights like this and other useful updates directly in your email.