I can’t tell you what your next million-dollar idea will be-but I can tell you, with near 100% certainty, where you’re going to find it. And it probably won’t be where you think.
In order to understand this, you have to understand what creativity is-and what it isn’t. Because your next million-dollar idea will be, by definition, a creative idea. And creativity, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t come from nowhere.
Creativity is not the “lightning bolt” that comes out of the blue. And creative ideas aren’t formed from nothing. In the vast majority of cases, creative ideas are found at the intersection of two or more seemingly unconnected things.
You’ve probably never heard of Robert Palladino, a former Trappist monk. But without him, there’s a very good chance that you would also have never heard of the iPhone.
Robert Palladino taught calligraphy at a small liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon. And in 1973, a former student at that college (he had dropped out after just one semester), happened to sit in on Palladino’s calligraphy course.
That student’s name was Steve Jobs. In addition to calligraphy, he also dabbled in computers.
When Steve Jobs and his friend Steve Wozniak created the Apple computer-and later, the Mac-Jobs remembered his calligraphy class, and insisted that their computer would be able to display calligraphic fonts. This helped set Apple apart, which helped make it (eventually) successful. Successful enough to create other innovations-like the iPhone.
Now here’s the thing. Computers already existed. And calligraphy already existed. But, until Steve Jobs came along, nobody had ever thought of combining the two. And if Jobs hadn’t happened to walk into that calligraphy class at Reed College, he might not have thought of it either.
Steve Jobs found his million-dollar idea (or, more accurately, billion-dollar idea) at the intersection of computers and calligraphy.
So what’s your “calligraphy class”? What’s your “other thing”? Do you have one? Or are you, like many leaders, afflicted with what I call “professional tunnel vision”?
Leaders with this affliction would never take a calligraphy course. They would say it’s “frivolous,” and “not relevant to business.” And they would not invent the iPhone.
Because million-dollar ideas are so often found at the intersection of seemingly unrelated things, don’t you think it would behoove you to have a broad range of interests?Because if you have a broad range of interests-if you read widely, if you have diverse interests, if you associate with people from different walks of life-the odds of you finding your “other thing,” your “calligraphy class,” your “million-dollar idea” increase dramatically.
So where will you find your million-dollar idea? You’ll find it at the intersection of two or more seemingly different things that already exist. And when you can look at those things and connect them in a way that nobody else ever did before-well, that’s the real lightning bolt.