Why Not? – The Key to Creativity?

Someone sent me a link to this book and corresponding website a while back (no it wasn't a PR person). Now HBS has an article about it as well. The idea is that necessity isn't always the mother of invention.

Sometimes it isn't helpful to start the problem-solving process by identifying a problem. Sometimes the solution has to come first. Only after we've discovered a better way do we realize in retrospect that there was a problem to be solved.

For example, no one starts by saying, "Kids really need a scooter that spins more easily." Instead, they might say, "The polycarbonate wheel has revolutionized roller skates and rolling luggage. Are there any other products that might be improved?" Voila! The Razor scooter. When we translate ideas that have worked in one context and modify them to bring them to another, we discover a solution to a heretofore unnoticed problem…taking a solution from one context and seeing if it might work in another.

Translation often requires adaptation-not just brute arbitrage, but arbitrage with a twist. The translated solution needs to be well translated or blended to fit the context and institutions of the new setting.

These guys have some great ideas, but I don't think you can start a company with a simple product improvement. Nonetheless, creativity is an important part of any business. This reminds me of a business plan I wrote in college. More on that later today when I am free.