The Productivity Secret You Don't Want to Hear

December 4, 2014 4:44 PM

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Don't believe the old adage to "think outside the box." The new recipe for real inspiration? Old experiences and past knowledge get those creative juices flowing much more than any fancy attempts to innovate your way to the eureka!, says a new study titled "Do the best design ideas (really) come from conceptually distant sources of inspiration?" out of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. The reason? Trying to find the perfect solution from blind experimentation is a bit like stumbling around in the dark, explains the lead researcher, UPitt's Joel Chan. Chan, a graduate student in psychology who co-wrote the paper with two professors at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon, succinctly rejects the popular premise in the TED Talk age that all disciplinary knowledge is inspirationally transferable. "It's unlikely that you'll get insight for a biology problem if you went to a jazz concert," he says.

Chan and his team sifted through 2,341 concepts from OpenIDEO, a online crowd-sourced innovation platform that addresses various social and environmental issues ranging from the solving the world's e-waste buildup to restoring vibrancy in economically declining cities. On this site, people can post ...

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