A Simple Recipe for Making Ideas

Where do good ideas come from?

Well, getting ideas and making them a reality is like baking a cake.

If you’re going to bake a cake, you need a recipe, ingredients, cooking tools, and an oven. Having a recipe for good ideas is essential, too, because a “recipe” in the idea world is how you go about defining the goal of the idea. First of all, determine if the idea going to be a product (as opposed to a service). If it is, what kind of product will it be?

When we bake a cake, we know that the ingredients are going to include baking soda, sugar, flour, salt, butter, and eggs. If we’re creating a product, we’ll need things like paper, pencils, pens, and colored markers. After we have all of that in front of us, we “prepare” our ideas by doing things like conducting research, reading books, talking to people, experiencing products, and getting a thorough understanding of the desired goal.

But back to baking a cake: we measure our ingredients, we crack the eggs into a mixing bowl, and we mix in the other necessary ingredients. The entire process of baking a cake is about the addition of its contents. This can be messy. In the product world, our intellectual “ingredients”—i.e., information through research and information acquired through experiences—are collected and “mixed” with pen and paper as we sketch out the idea’s possibilities. Like baking, cross-pollinating ideas with information is mentally messy, too, as we correlate and see possible interconnections.

Once the cake mixture is ready, we pour the batter into the cake pan and put the pan into the pre-heated oven. When creating a product, the information we’ve gathered is incubated with the sketched-out concepts. (Incubation is an internal mental process that can be done collectively or independently.)

After a set amount of time, the cake should be removed from the oven, the oven turned off, and the cake allowed to cool. The product incubation time will also come to an end in due time. Every inventor has a different incubation period—some Idea Chefs have faster incubation engines than do others.

Once the cake is cool, we smooth icing over the top and let the excess spill lavishly down the sides of the cake. With products, we finesse and refine the generated idea into a viable sketch, design, or prototype. The product idea may even need to go back into incubation since it’s an iterative process.

Finally, we eat! We experience the cake through its visual beauty and its flavor. To be a truly successful cake, however, others must find it delicious, too. This is similar to the world of product innovation: the generated idea needs to be given the emotional appeal (that is, its marketing and branding identity) as well as a thumbs-up from sponsors who will enable customers to eventually purchase and experience the product.

Good luck baking!

Idea Chef :: Adrian Chernoff


Learn about innovation practices on how to envision the future

Click to learn more

The Creative Manifesto

Learn about the four methods for keeping creatively active

Click to learn more