Contributed by Anand Chhatpar, CEO of BrainReactions
ThinkCube is a new idea generation tool from MetaMemes, a small innovative company whose mission is to bring people and ideas together. Founder and Director of Innovation, Kes Sampanthar, recently took the time to answer some of my questions.
Q: What is ThinkCube?
A: ThinkCube takes the concept of a brainstorming card deck to the next level. It provides you with a diverse selection of thought-provoking stimuli and incorporates a simple innovation process that results in high quality ideas.
Q: Tell me the basics of how I would use it.
A: ThinkCube can be used individually or in a group. In both scenarios, the basics are the same. You define your challenge as specifically as possible. To stimulate ideas, you randomly draw six cards from ThinkCube’s Idea Library. This starts you out with a collection of ideas and stimuli from diverse fields and topics. The cards are then combined to form new ideas. The ThinkCubation process takes you on a journey through phases of incubation and evaluation until one idea emerges as a winner.
Q: Why did you decide to create an innovation tool?
A: I have always been obsessed with ideas and innovation. It started with designing computer games as a child and has evolved into a career focused around innovations in technology. In my university days, I was challenged to come up with a steady stream of ideas and that’s when I first started digging into research on creativity and innovation. It led me to create my own rudimentary innovation system that involved reading widely and collecting ideas. I used these ideas as stimulus to form unique ideas and solutions in my own work. It worked so well for me that I decided to craft it into a tool that I could share with others.
Q: How did ThinkCube get its name?
A: ThinkCube is named after my ThinkCubation process which focuses on the two most important steps of the innovation process: thinking and incubation. ThinkCubation, as I’ve coined it, is a practical methodology based on creativity techniques used by mathematicians and physicists like Henri Poincare, Jacques Hadamard, and Albert Einstein. I leveraged their thoughts on invention and incubation to come up with a process that resembles techniques used in their work.
Q: What makes ThinkCube different from other creativity tools on the market?
A: Our innovation process. Other popular tools (IDEO Method Cards, Whack Pack, KnowBrainer) consist of a playing card size deck of questions and/or techniques that only focus on one aspect of innovation – mainly ideation. We have wrapped our tool with a simple business process addressing all aspects of innovation to ensure people get better results from their ideation sessions.
Q: You said ThinkCubation is based on techniques used by Einstein – can you tell me more?
A: Einstein had a highly developed mental ability to “play with ideas”. He described his technique as combinatory play: combining existing ideas to form new connections and new ideas. Einstein always explained this was at the core of his genius. I am not sure about that, but I know that his technique is powerful and as more research is done on the brain, it seems to be pointing to this ability being at the core of all creative thought. ThinkCube is based on this technique of combining ideas and provides a wealth of disparate ideas to spark the creation of unique new ideas.
Q: Where did you get all the ideas for ThinkCube’s Idea Library?
A: I’m a self-proclaimed idea addict. I am constantly reading and learning about new things. If you were to stand in from of my bookshelves you would see books on variety of subjects including artificial intelligence, marketing, evolution, game design, cognitive science, internet architecture, and archaeology. Any fascinating ideas I come across, I record in my personal idea notebooks. Oddly enough, when it came to creating ThinkCube, the most difficult task for me was trimming down the list of ideas to be included in this initial release.
Q: How would someone use your tool in an uncreative, corporate environment?
A: Innovation can start from the bottom-up. You don’t need to wait for your company to start an innovation program; you can start one yourself, grass-roots style, utilizing a tool like ThinkCube.
Q: What kinds of projects can ThinkCube help with?
A: Our customers use ThinkCube to create original plot lines for books, new product ideas, movie scripts, games, and new business processes. Basically, ThinkCube can help with any task that requires original thought.
Q: How do I know if ThinkCube will fit my style of creativity?
A: To get a better idea of what’s included in ThinkCube, our website offers a rich set of multimedia resources including print-ready examples of the idea library and a Flash version of our handbook.
Q: In your Idea Handbook, you mention building a social network around ThinkCube. Can you explain a little more?
A: Combining ideas from diverse domains to form new ideas is at the core of the ThinkCubation process. This principle builds on a phenomenon called small worlds; you are more likely to get a new job from a friend of friend then directly from a close friend. The same concept applies to ideas. Everyone has a unique set of ideas and experiences and you are more likely to come up with new ideas when interacting with people outside your immediate circle. ThinkCube provides the perfect vehicle to bring people together in the form of an innovation club to ThinkCubate new ideas and swap ideas from each others’ personal idea libraries. I am currently working on building a social network on Ning.com for the ThinkCube community.
Q: What are the next steps for ThinkCube and MetaMemes?
A: ThinkCube represents the first in a series of products and services that will help companies to develop innovative cultures. In the near future, we plan to release ThinkCube expansion packs targeting topics like nanotechnology, biotechnology, and management strategy.
Special Offer for BrainWaves readers:
We have been able to negotiate a 10% Discount for our readers wanting to buy the ThinkCube from MetaMemes. Simply use the Coupon Code BRAINREACTIONS during check-out at http://www.metamemes.com to get this discount.
This article is part of the April 2008 issue of BrainWaves E-magazine on Innovation and Ideation