Sunday, February 7, 2010

Use Cross-Fertilization For Original Insights

Here's an idea to boost your reservoir of creative ideas: take solutions that work in one discipline and apply them in a completely different field of study. You'll find that cross-fertilizing ideas like this can bring about surprising and original insights.

I used to worked on Wall Street as a tech stock analyst. And in the technology industry, there's a lot of focus on economies of scale, product costs and innovation. Further, many technology industries tend to have 80/20 Rule (or winner-take-all) outcomes where just a few companies control vast markets.

When I started my food blog, I figured that there would be no connection at all between how I thought about technology companies and how I thought about cooking.

Wrong. There were more commonalities than I ever imagined, and they led to some of my most popular and widely-read articles. Some examples:

1) Winner-take-all outcomes in technology also help explain why prices in the boxed cereal and spice industries are shockingly high.
2) When I took some basic thinking on the cost structure of technology products and applied the same concepts to the food industry, it gave me the idea for my essay on Second-Order Foods.
3) Thinking about economies of scale in the kitchen gave rise to a popular article on how to get faster at cooking.
4) Finally, the 80/20 Rule shows up in the world of food and cooking in a surprising number of instances.

If you don't have experience in widely disparate fields, get some. Read widely and eclectically. Get outside of your comfort zone and read up on completely unfamiliar subjects. It will help you come up with your most creative ideas.