The Creativity Cure

If you’ve ever sat at home with a sick child, you know the feeling of helplessness.  You just want them to feel better.  So you try all the normal remedies, all the while wishing you had a magic wand to make the illness go away.  For most of us, the ideas for cure and comfort don’t get much more radical than a fairy tale wish.

Now, imagine a doctor came to you and proposed a cure that involved injecting your child with HIV!

That’s what happened to the parents of little Emma Whitehead.  At age 5, Emma was diagnosed with leukemia.  For over a year doctors tried a variety of treatments, including two rounds of chemotherapy, but nothing worked.  They were running out of options.

That’s when the doctors approached Kari and Tom Whitehead proposing a radical treatment.   They wanted to inject Emma with a special “disabled” form of HIV – a virus that instead of rendering Emma unable to fight infection would help her fight leukemia.  You can read the NY Times article here.  

The treatment was a risk.  But today, she is happily bouncing around her house, leukemia-free.  It’s a miracle of innovation that turns conventional wisdom on its head.  There’s a lot to be learned from Emma’s story.  Here are three key aspects that you can apply the next time you are searching for innovative solutions.

  1. Focus on the Positive:  Rather than throwing out ideas that will not work, focus on what is good about them, and brainstorm ways to hang on to the positive aspects of the solution while minimizing or eliminating the drawbacks.  (Scientists used what HIV was good at doing, and used it to Emma’s advantage)
  2. Defer Judgment:   We often judge ideas as they come up.  Worse yet, we discuss how we might implement them.  This prematurely shuts down the flow of new ideas.  Instead, make sure you set aside time to generate ideas without discussing the details or implementation potential.  (Human nature has a bias for action and/or disregard for new and unusual ideas.  Fight the urge.)
  3. Force Connections:   Research shows that groups fare better than individuals when it comes to innovation.  This is due to the interaction of our unique perspectives.  Build upon this by forcing connections between ideas.  How can we use our competition to our advantage?  Who else has solved a problem like this in a different industry?  What can we adapt from nature that might help us?

In over thirty years of working with our clients, we’ve seen expansive ideas lead to amazing results. We hope to see the same for you.  And if you need help curing what ails you, just call me and let’s talk it over (800) 386-5611.





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