You’ve likely heard of the ‘Toaster Project’ – Thomas Thwaites’s infamous and somewhat funny attempt to create a toaster from scratch. Thwaites thought that for his project to be successful, he needed to deconstruct an existing toaster, give it a thorough analysis and assemble his piece accordingly. Doing so wasn’t as easy as Thwaites had assumed, and the final product came out looking more like a melted cake than a functional toaster.
The lesson that we can all learn from this story is that the path to victory is paved with more than just intentions. It takes thorough planning and proper execution to create a worthy product. Here’s how innovative ideas arise:
1. Avoid Starting From Scratch
Often when projects and experiments fail, people throw out all their creative progress in an attempt to start from scratch and build from ground zero. Remember that innovative ideas rarely ever arise from a clean slate. It takes attempt after attempt, and repeated adjustments to mistakes, to reach a point of success.
There won’t come a magical moment when you suddenly have all the right tools, techniques, and formulae needed to achieve your goal; rather, creative progress is made by building on old ideas that have already worked. For instance, the Wright brothers built the world’s flying machine by building on the ideas of pioneers like Samuel Langley and Octave Chanute. Often the best creations are the result of connection and combination of existing ideas.
2. Build On Existing Ideas
The toaster project is an example of how one cannot understand the true complexity of an idea until one tries to execute it. While the visual product may seem simple, many minute, interconnected details come into play, working together to create the final result. The failure to recognize the many processes that lead up to an innovative idea is the most common cause of failure.
An idea that is established has already passed several tests and trials. Hence you’ll know exactly which elements and components go into creating the end product. These old ideas are your secret weapon and can help you create a strong foundation to build on.