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Optimal Experience

In my exploration of creativity and the creative process, I've studied the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihaly (pronounced 'chik-SENT-me-high'), especially his theories of optimal experience.

He describes the state of 'flow': the state we are in when we are completely absorbed in what we're doing, when we are unaware of the passage of time, when our abilities are perfectly matched to the task at hand. He created a graph that measures the difficulty of the activity along the x axis and personal skill along the y axis. When difficulty is high and skills are low, frustration results; when skills are high and difficulty is low, you see boredom. But when both skills and ability are high, the subject experiences flow.

I discussed this method of quantifying experience with Professor Csikszentmihaly. I was curious to see if a similar approach could be used to measure the 'voltage' of an idea or a concept.

Instead of skill level and difficulty, I created a graph in which the axes measure the uniqueness of an idea and its relevance. If an idea is very relevant, but doesn't rate very high in uniqueness or difference, then you have consumer boredom: 'I can use it, but so what; it's the same old thing.' If the opposite is true-an idea is distinctive, but it doesn't have a clear application to real life-then we're in 'too crazy for me' territory.

But when an idea is highly relevant and fresh, then the consumer response reaches the high-voltage zone.

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