Arts Interstices interviewed creative thinking  strategist David Kord Murray,  author of the highly acclaimed Borrowing Brilliance.  His latest book Plan B was recently published by Simon and Schuster.

AI: Can you describe the basic process of creative thinking as you’ve come to understand it?

DKM: The process as I describe it in Borrowing Brilliance is an evolutionary one.  It has to do with making incremental improvements onto existing ideas that are already out in the universe.  You take an idea and work with it and figure out how to do it better.  The cover of the book shows a candle shifting in stages to an incandescent bulb to a fluorescent bulb.  A business innovation doesn’t come out of nowhere.  It gets built onto the ideas of others.  But it takes a long time, sometimes years of study and improvement.  It’s an investment in finding the right combinations and testing them out.

You can consciously put yourself on certain paths.  The key is how you define whatever problem you’re solving.  That is actually the first step, defining the problem.

Then you look outside your field.  Look around to other fields, other areas of expertise and see how people are solving similar problems.  That’s where you go to gather materials for your new creative solution.

AI: What in your view is the problem with most brainstorming meetings?

DKM: I’m okay with the brainstorming meeting per se as a part of the process.  But the problem is that it’s missing a very important element, and that is judgment, specifically negative judgment.

Negative judgment is the driver of your ideas.  A creative solution doesn’t often pop out fully formed and good.  If it does you’re rare and extremely lucky.

The reality is ideas take a lot of work to improve.  You have to keep going through and pushing and making the enhancements and adjusting.  First you use judgment to say what elements work and you want to keep, then you identify which elements are detracting from the overall solution.  You try to fix those by eliminating the negatives, recombining with other models, other ideas.  You need to be patient.

Companies that succeed also stumble all the time.  They make mistakes.

NEXT WEEK: Models of successful recombining.