What if we could view the world through different typefaces? This question no longer poses merely a hypothetical thanks to the Japanese company Type’s glasses with frames inspired by your favorite font (as long as your favorite font is Garamond of Helvetica). Here at Otherwise, we take our name from the belief that flipping an idea, design or business upside down can change a game. Looking at things from unique perspectives allows you to see things you otherwise (pun intended) might not have noticed. After all, had it not been for Dr. Kellogg’s attempt to feed a hungry vegetarian patient, we would not have (you guessed it) Kellogg’s cereal!
Often, we use the terms invention and innovation interchangeably, but there is a clear distinction between the two. Invention marks the first of something, while innovation means something even more brilliant. To distinguish between the two reminds us that you don’t need to be the first to be the best. Apple, whose very tagline is “Think Different” did not invent the first portable media player, or even come close to it. Remember your Sony Walkman? However, the release of the iPod in 2001 certainly revolutionized portable music experience. Innovative ideas might seem hard to come by, but undoubtedly some of our best ideas come out of nothing more than a fresh perspective.
Some of the greatest inventions occurred serendipitously. Take Velcro as an example; discovered in 1941 when Swiss engineer, George de Mestral, noticed burs in his dog’s while on a hunting trip in the Alps. Under a microscope, he conceptualized the idea of combining the “hooks” at the end of the burs with fabric. This is one of many serendipitous discoveries. Moreover, this discovery is not pure luck, since many people would notice burs and not discover Velcro. Rather, it is our ability to constantly engage with our surroundings in unforeseen ways. Fortuitous moments hold great potential for spawning new ideas, but we have to take notice of these details. If nothing else, Jackson Pollock taught us random acts make for beautiful paintings.
An unconventional method holds great power. If you are accustomed to starting at the beginning, try starting at the end. If this seems ridiculous, just look to Edward de Pono’s research in the field of lateral thinking, the process of tackling a problem from multiple angles, for comfort. To quote de Pono, “…there is no doubt that creativity is the most important resource of all.” Unlike less conscious notions of creativity, it engages degrees of logical thought to awaken alternative viewpoints. This proves widely impactful in businesses. For example, the wildly successful global non-profit Liter of Light employed this paradigm in using water bottles as a sustainable means of generating electricity. Rather than thinking of a solution, sometimes it is more beneficial to think first of what caused the problem.
Most of us attribute our skills to merely one side of our brain, but humans are not as binary as we’d like to think. In fact, scientific experiments do not support the left-brain nerd, right-brain artist distinction. Whether it is reading a book you aren’t naturally inclined to pick up or taking a class that has always felt intimidating, new experience sparks new ideas. It is important to actively gather new sources of information. Ingenious people think with an interdisciplinary mind. You needn’t be a master of all subjects; however practicing a bit of dilettantism can help the creation of innovative products or ideas. If we shy away from uncomfortable experiences, we may never unlock our greatest potential. So, before we self-categorize ourselves as either ‘this or that’…we should try doing this and that.
Erica Grubman is an Integrated Marketing Associate at Otherwise Incorporated.
Graphic Credit: Erica Grubman