combinatorial creativity

Stop the Insanity

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” – Albert Einstein

Though there are dozens of quotes similar to this attributed to Albert Einstein and others, the core thought is something we can’t be reminded of enough. We too easily fall into the same patterns of thinking, even as we are confronted with new problems and challenges.

I recently learned a term that has helped me to process through this age old paradox and encourage me toward healthier problem solving. I wanted to share it…

Combinatorial Creativity


The basic principle is that, nothing is truly original and all newly created things are put forth by innovators borrowing from a variety of thoughts, perspectives, and designs to create something new from the COMBINATION of those influences.

Even this statement has the tendency to come across as elementary or cliche, but how often do we think “harder work” will allow us to solve new problems? In fact, the more we consciously dwell on a problem that requires an innovative solution, the more likely we are to corner ourselves into the nooks of the familiar, entrenched in habitual patterns of thought that lead where they always have.

If we believe this to be true we need to stop reading more business books to find our solutions. We need to stop adding more meetings to gain the necessary perspective on the problem we’re trying to solve. What we must do instead is pursue our interests outside of work as fervently as we do the success of our vocation. It’s very possible (dare I say probable) that the solution you’re looking for is within your next visit to the museum, or when you’re playing your guitar and trying to write a song.

If you want proof, read biographies (or watch them on Netflix) that cover someone you truly respect. What you invariably will find is that this person took a very winding and circuitous path to arrive at the point of their prestige. They were able to borrow ideas from their broad array of experiences and interests to create something we all view as new or revolutionary.

Go do something different. Go do something that inspires you.

{NOTE: If you’re interested in reading further about combinatorial creativity, you can read this great article on Smithsonian Magazine’s website}

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Written by Kohl Crecelius
Kohl Crecelius is the CEO and Co-founder of the non-profit apparel brand Krochet Kids intl. He is passionate about helping others realize the role they can play in changing the world using the skills and gifts they have.