Innovation is #IdeaSex
Birds do it. Bees do it. Even uneducated fleas do it. The result of sex is genetic innovation. When mommy and daddy love each other very much (or not) sperm meets egg and genes are combined. The result is something that is kind of like mom and kind of like dad but also is a whole new genetic combo.
Baby is an innovation. Some babies are cute. Some babies we pretend are cute because no one wants to admit that a lot of babies are kind of fugly. It works the exact same way for idea sex. You put two things together that have never been combined before and see how it turns out.
The Short Version
And when peanut butter meets chocolate you get something delicious...
You’ve probably done this kind of innovation before and combined two different foods. The results are sometimes delicious and sometimes a disaster. But here’s the huge advantage #ideasex has over #geneticsex. When your #ideababy is ugly, you can throw it away and try again. And if you remember from the Purple Belt to reframe mistakes as learning opportunities, then you understand why innovation expert Adam Hansen says that if you want to have good ideas you should have lots of ideas. Put more bluntly, the secret to ending up with a beautiful #ideababy is to have lots of ugly ones first. An idea that people engaged in the creative process have reiterated throughout the ages.
“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”
— Philip Roth
“The first draft of anything is shit.”
— Ernest Hemmingway
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
― Thomas A. Edison
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
— George Orwell
While the Reese’s ad is a cute origin myth for how great ideas are born, like all genius myths it leaves out the tremendous amount of work required to take that chance encounter of chocolate and peanut butter and evolve it into the Reese’s peanut butter cup.
But be warned that you might find yourself shutting down that play before it even really starts. That’s because as innovation expert Adam Hansen points out our brains evolved to have a negativity bias. Innovation requires Outsmarting Your Instincts. That’s why improv comedians like Tina Fey rest their whole craft on getting away from negativity bias by saying:
Take the story of Roy Choi who grew up in LA with two cuisines he adored. Working in his family’s Korean restaurant, he loved Korean BBQ, but Roy was also an Angeleno who loved taco trucks. He figured “Why not make Korean BBQ tacos?” He did and they’re delicious. However, it took a lot of trial and error to figure out how to get these two different cuisines to complement each other, creating a dish that had elements of its mommy and daddy but was something entirely new.
#Ideasex isn’t just about food. It’s also about technologies like the iPhone, which brings together mobile phones, portable music players and more into a single device, and Nobel-Prize winning ideas like those of Kahneman and Tversky which integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty.
Like Jobs and Wozniak, Kahneman and Tversky were very different people. Their intellectual diversity was the basis of their strength; they began a long collaboration that through endless back and forth evolved a new way of thinking that is one of the cornerstones of Mixed Mental Arts.
However, that collaboration depended on the respect they had for each other. Michael Lewis explains in The Undoing Project, that once Tversky started taking more of the credit and eroding the mutual respect, the collaboration began to unravel. In Kahneman’s own words, it was like the failure of a marriage. It was the failure of a work marriage.
The price any human pays for staying in their echo chamber and not respecting humans who Think Different is the missed opportunity for innovation. You are literally setting yourself up to be less successful. Often, respecting people who Think Different is treated as something you should do for kumbaya reasons. Nope.
Leaving your echo chamber and respecting people who think different is how you get ahead. When you’re in an echo chamber, you’re not having #ideasex. At best you’re mentally masturbating. At worst, you’re having ideaincest. And that never turns out well whether we’re talking genetics or ideas.
If you really want to have a good life and move humanity forward organize an ideaorgy, both inside your own head and with others. Mixed Mental Arts is all about intellectual diversity. We’re constantly pulling new influences into our own lives and pulling together a bigger and bigger group to add in even more ideas.
Although we are remixing those ideas constantly not all of them are keepers. Many have to be thrown away. But when ugly ideababies don’t work people APPLAUD you for tossing them out.
Innovation is about facilitating all parts of this process: Expose yourself to as many ideas as possible. Give yourself permission to play around with combining those ideas. Have Roy Choi-like persistence to bring an idea you’re pregnant with to term. Have productive and respectful conversations with people who think differently like Kahneman and Tversky did and then understand the challenges of those marriage-like relationships; they take real work, but the fruits they bear can be truly wonderful.
For now, don’t worry about “getting married” yet. Play around. Experiment. Have lots of unprotected #ideasex with new and different partners. Then see what you come up with.
It takes practice, but once you get the hang of it #IdeaSex is the easiest thing in the world.