Mixing the old and the new can often create something that is very innovative: the boat and aeroplane were combined to create the flying boat; the stagecoach was combined with the steam engine to create the steam train; the principle behind the Victorian flick book was combined with modern film and projection equipment to create the motion picture.
The next time you need to generate innovative solutions to problems, do not forget to consider how old ideas could be combined with new ones.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How can you use what already exists to enhance your new ideas? (The quick drying ink used to print newspapers was also used to enhance the effectiveness of the newly invented Biro or ballpoint pen.)
- How can you use your new ideas to enhance what already exists? (Transistors replaced valves and enhanced the speed and effectiveness of computers. Then along came semiconductors, and computer performance was enhanced once again.)
- How can a past success be incorporated into something new? (The principle behind the superbly effective paint tin lid was, in reverse form, incorporated into the design of Tupperware container lids.)
- Which ideas and approaches have been so successful that they are now taken for granted or overlooked? How can their immense success contribute to something new? (The humble O ring seal, which has been keeping bathrooms leak free for decades, eventually became an essential component of aeroplanes and spacecraft.)
- How can a proven principle or concept be combined with new technology in order to gain enhanced returns? (The well-established idea of discount stamps was combined with computer technology to create Nectar Points.)