For all the great talks I saw live at TED 2017, most focused on executing ideas brilliantly after you have them. But how exactly do you get those brilliant ideas in the first place?

The surprising outlier was OK Go, a music group known for its incredibly creative videos. As the musicians shared at TED, "It doesn't feel like we come up with them at all, but that we find them."

Why brainstorming doesn't yield originality

The talk addresses a common pattern: "You think of an idea, you come up with a plan, and then revise your original idea to fit a great plan, and then, and only then, do you go out and execute it.... The process we use has a strong bias against surprising ideas."

You are less likely to come up with a genius, nevertheless original idea if you are focused on just minimizing risk. "It is a flawless system for maximizing your resources since thinking is usually super cheap and execution is expensive. And you are more likely to do something that has been done before."

Decide on the focus, not on the plan.

Instead, OK Go uses about a third of its video budget to find a great idea: in short, finding a sandbox where many great ideas may lie -- and trusting that, in its words, "the right sandbox won't just have ideas that are surprising, but are surprisingly reliable."

To me, it is like spending a significant amount of your travel budget to get to, say, a gorgeous island: You don't know exactly what's going to happen, but you have an inkling that you're going to be in the right place for wonderful experiences to occur. For OK Go, it took simple premises -- like dancing on treadmills or making a big Rube Goldberg machine -- and turned them into big, viral videos.

It comes down to a few takeaways.

Put as much energy into the execution as the concept: The best way to success may be to create a foundation and begin experimenting as soon as possible.

Create wise parameters: The tighter the parameters, the more defined the experience.

Expect surprises: It can't all be planned. In fact, it shouldn't all be planned.

Take Advantage of Surprises
Published on: May 30, 2017