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How do I know if my idea is creative?

We all have creative ideas. Some of us more so than others – but how do we know if they are really creative? What are the benchmarks for a creative idea? Does it need a wow factor? Do people have to be willing to invest in it? Does it have to be patented (okay, that one is ridiculous)? But seriously, how do we know?

Well I hope by now we know that the best way to innovate is by thinking ‘inside the box’, by constraining our brain to think narrowly and hyper focused. Doing that leads to generating many innovative ideas that can be later used as springboards to real innovation.

Although there are many opinions as to what are the parameters needed for an idea to be creative are , I strongly believe that there are 3 key components – the idea must be original, useful and simple.

Original – the idea must be a new one (or at least to the people around you)

Useful – there must be an obvious usage and implementation of the idea (a trip to the moon = unhelpful)

Simple – it should not need a user manual to implement (listeners should get the concept and the applications right away – if you need to repeat the words – “hear me out” multiple times, you can just assume it’s not simple.

I always laugh remembering a conversation I had with my son on a topic that can best illustrate this point:

My son: I have a great idea.

Me: Yes?

My son: We can save so much money on water. Instead of filling up a bath with water from the tap, we can walk around to every house and ask each one for a cup of water. After enough trips we can fill up a whole bath and we won’t have to use our own water.

Me: Uh huh. Please go take a bath

If you think about it though, my son’s idea wasn’t a bad one. It was definitely original. Nobody goes around collecting water for a bath, one can argue that it was useful as the water can be used but when we consider the third component we are stuck - it was definitely not simple. Going around to 100+ homes every time we want to run a bath is simply impossible (not to mention all the hygienic problems). Although he had 2/3’s of the components, his idea wouldn’t receive the innovators stamp of approval.

You can practice this idea whenever you see something and your initial reaction is – that is so creative. But is it? Does it have all 3 components – original, useful and simple? Just yesterday I saw a video of a teapot floating in the air. Water was rushing out of its spout and it overflowed into a pool. It had the appearance of causing a waterfall.

Is that creative? I mean it definitely was original – I don’t think I had ever seen that before. Is it useful – maybe? I mean they used it but I wouldn’t say it’s the most useful idea. And was it simple? Again, maybe. It looked simple upon seeing it but I can’t imagine it was super simple to create. I couldn’t say the product wasn’t creative – and it definitely had an added element of surprise which always gives brownie points in the field of creativity – but I definitely couldn’t say it isn’t.

The next time you hear an idea or see an extremely “creative” ad, ask yourself if it has these 3 components? If it does, you have a winner. If it doesn’t, well you’ll need to judge for yourself.

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