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How to reengineer your ideas by connecting the unconnected.

Amazing ideas flourish when you connect things that no one else has tried before. It enables you to come up with completely new thoughts. If you want to develop breakthrough ideas, try merging together ideas that have never been coupled before and watch what they grow to. It might turn out terrible a dozens of times, but image the ingenious impact when it does work.

Besides connecting ideas, you can also make connections between people. Networking as well as talking to people are excellent ways to come up with new ideas. Everybody is a unique source of information and has an exceptional opinion that you will never have heard before. Moreover, you can’t expect to gather all answers yourself. Asking questions and being inquisitive is worth the initial feeling of unease. One day you might get stuck on a specific problem, then simply look out how other people and organizations have solved this issue and talk to them.

Sometimes the best inventions ensue from uncommon situations or occur just by chance. One day you might see something or hear someone, often completely unconnected to the problem you are trying to solve, and next thing you know, you feel a totally random but truly novel idea entering your mind. Just like Archimedes in the bathing tub or Newton and the apple.

Why does this happen? By exposing ourselves to a new stimulus we allow our brain to adapt the way we think about certain things. Changing our thinking habits forms new neural connections and enhances the ability to incorporate random elements to our everyday life and to capitalize on them. Therefore, frequently trying to connect the unconnected helps you absorb new knowledge more efficiently and eases the development of fresh thoughts. Visit unknown places and proactively search for exciting stimuli. I am sure that you will find interesting possibilities on how to connect these stimuli with your current situation or problem. Here are some techniques that you can use:

  1. Work with random stimuli: Choose a word from the dictionary and think of radical connections between the word and your problem. Look up new information on Scholarpedia or go through a newspaper and try to relate their input to your current thoughts.
  2. Mind map your ideas: Put your key thought in the middle of a page and write down whatever else comes in your mind on the same page. By visualizing relevant data around your main idea you can start making connections between them and explore hierarchical differences. Don’t restrict yourself to your own thoughts and concepts, try to include other pieces of information like pictures, websites and videos as well. Play with various constellations in order to evaluate the most suitable one.
  3. Grab an item: Ask yourself questions such as “How could this item help in addressing the problem?”, “What attributes of this item could help me solve the challenge?”, “How can I relate this item to my current situation?”, or “How can I incorporate the function of the item to my idea?”

Now that you know some simple techniques on how to connect the unconnected let’s take a look at the big picture. In today’s world people talk a lot about the Internet of Everything (IoE) which is nothing else than connecting the unconnected, just in a much broader perspective. The IoE describes the digital link between people, processes, data and objects, representing the further development of the Internet of Things (IoT). Thus, making network connections more relevant and valuable than ever before. In following video you can explore how Cisco and the city of Hamburg work together to connect traffic, parking lighting, port logistics, and more. It is a great example on what you can come up with when you start connecting your thoughts with new stimuli.

With the video in mind I would like to point out that anyone can be creative, because creative thinking is a skill and not an innate ability. That means you can get better at it over time. You don’t need to be particularly creative from the beginning. So get out there and start applying the techniques outlined in this article. Once you got the hang of them and a bit of practice, you’ll be generating much more creative ideas.