The Apple-Orange Connection

June 11, 2019

Combine the Unexpected for Innovation

Who ever thought that a camera and a phone had anything in common? Or a house could mimic a hotel? Or someone’s car could serve as a taxi?

For a long time, no one – until they did. Now, millions of people use smartphones as their phones and cameras, book rooms in private residences through Airbnb, and use Uber or Lyft to hire private cars.

The Idea

In Idea Magnets, author Mike Brown shows that innovations like these come from creative thinkers who simply know how to combine unexpected ideas.

When we say two things are “like apples and oranges,” we’re trying to justify why we can’t compare them. But what about all the ways that apples and oranges are alike? After all, they’re both round, edible fruits sold in grocery stores.

Why It’s Relevant

Business leaders often think of their problems as unique, but are they really?

To break through this kind of thinking, Brown offers a formula for comparing two unlike things: Start with “Our situation,” and then supply a verb describing how the situation feels or looks; what it communicates, does; or how it behaves. Complete the sentence with an unusual connection.

How to Apply It

Let’s say you need to revamp your human resources department. It feels chaotic, is full of “nonconformists” – to put it euphemistically – and seems a little crazy. You might say, “HR at our company feels like a circus.”

Okay, but circuses are highly organized operations that value diversity and focus on making people happy. What if the circus, seen in a new light, could inspire the answers to your problems?

If you can embrace things that only seem incompatible, you, too, can become an “idea magnet” and innovate at a whole new level.


About the Source

Mike Brown is an author and strategist who specializes in design thinking to business operations. His book Idea Magnets: 7 Strategies for Cultivating & Attracting Creative Business Leaders helps dynamic leaders cultivate extreme creativity and success through organizations.